The End of the WAN as We Know It

Over the past year, I kept coming across articles discussing how CIOs of large enterprise have finally started becoming more open-minded to the public cloud. This comes as no surprise since the benefits of a pay-as-you-go datacenter are irresistible. However, large enterprises will still keep a certain amount of datacenter capacity in-house for security, backup, and peace of mind. A direct implication of this massive shift is the impact on the way those same enterprises look at their network. While the datacenter becomes commoditized as a pay-as-you-go utility, the WAN is following the same path.

Along these lines, network monitoring needs to change to adapt to this new reality. The average enterprise that buys connectivity off the shelf doesn’t have any control over or oversight of the part of the Internet that connects its branch offices to its cloud infrastructure. The Internet is a black box that is depended upon to deliver services and applications, and this black box is the new WAN.InternetBlackBox

On the one hand, these new networking and datacenter realities provide tremendous flexibility in terms of deployment, support, and cost control. On the other hand, they limit the visibility and control of the network that connects branch offices to the cloud. Consequently, network monitoring is shifting focus from SNMP- and flow-based tools to end-user experience tools.

In addition, wireless is becoming a more prevalent part of the equation since the typical setup of a branch office will consist of a router that most likely is also a wireless access point that supports dozens of active users. In this context, monitoring WiFi from the user’s perspective gives the end-to-end visibility that enables quick issue detection and troubleshooting.

In conclusion, to draw a historical parallel, the power generation industry went through the same evolution. Initially, factories and industrial parks used to produce their own electricity (datacenters). When standards (IP stack) and the grid (Internet) came along, these same industries offloaded some of their energy needs to the grid but, in some cases, still kept considerable power generation capacity on premise. They took a hybrid approach. Networking and the cloud is our generation’s parallel to centralized power generation. I am optimistic that in having learned from a century’s mistakes and success stories, cloud and networking will evolve much faster and much more successfully.

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