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Manage the pressure on the WAN without pressurizing the budget

SaaS applications, connected devices, unified communication tools are jostled on the company’s Internet access point and VPN network. If they are not muscular, it will soon no longer be possible to work. But be careful not to fall into the trap of uncontrolled spending.

The Internet connection of companies is under pressure. According to OEM Cisco, data traffic between the company, its hosted applications and remote users has already tripled since 2012 and will increase by the same amount by 2019. What is in question? It is the work habits that have radically changed since the arrival of cloud computing and the democratization of mobile technologies. And that will change again with the upcoming spread of connected devices of all types.

While IT departments, seduced by the promise to reduce their infrastructure costs by 30%, first played a key role in the adoption of the Cloud, it must be said that this technology now requires them to address connection challenges that they had not clearly identified at the outset. To avoid the trap of spending what they have saved on IT infrastructure in network connections, companies have a strong interest in measuring, understanding and reorganizing their data flows in order to control the budget for resizing their vpn (WAN) networks.

The Cloud has moved the workload on the vpn network

In the white paper Cloud & New IT Uses recently published by the EBG, Patrick Gressel, CIO of Mapa Spontex, explains that his company initially had a dedicated vpn network (MPLS) between its provincial branches, with just Internet access at the headquarters level to centralize all web browsing. But when everyone switched to cloud applications, the bandwidth at headquarters was in danger of being saturated, both at the MPLS entry point and on the gateway to the Internet. He had two choices. The first, excessively expensive, was simply to strengthen all connections to provide more bandwidth for everyone. The second, for whom he opted, was to have his network engineers work on a new architecture that offers the best compromise between bandwidth and price, without sacrificing security. “So we equipped each site with local, faster Internet connections, with secure tunnels (VPNs) to headquarters, which continued to serve as an authentication point to SaaS, via a more robust gateway. In the end, we gained the bandwidth we needed and reduced our connection costs,” he says.

The overwhelming pressure of connected objects and collaborators on the network

Problem, professional SaaS applications are far from being the only ones responsible for the essential resizing of the WAN vpn network. The tidal wave of connected objects is on the horizon and, with it, a whole anthology of video surveillance cameras that will raise the image of a warehouse in the provinces, or local printers, vending machines that will still use the company’s Internet connection to signal to their manufacturers that they must send someone to fill their tanks. The connected objects will generate an excess of images, videos and data that will take up space on the bandwidth.

Another example is that of modern collaborative means. Employees increasingly connected in the field or at home thanks to the rise of mobile technologies, are demanding access from outside the company’s servers to manipulate files or simply read their emails. Nor is there any question of overlooking unified communications, which also pass through the WAN; it is a necessity to make calls by exchanging documents with external partners, when it is not a question of collaborating by videoconference with colleagues on the move.

The need to control the flows on the company vpn

Some IT departments hypothesize that the problem of missing bandwidth on the WAN can be overcome by delaying the arrival of SaaS, connected objects and unified communications as much as possible. Patrick Gressel has never considered this alternative, which he considers to be a mistake. For him, SaaS applications are now a must for enterprise software equipment, with leaders such as Office 365 for office automation and Salesforce for customer care. Worse still: it could not have prevented businesses from subscribing to these attractive offers on their own, thus generating Shadow IT which, among other things, would have contributed to adding uncontrolled data flows on the network.

Because that’s the danger: parasitic data flows are inevitable on the WAN. The Alcatel supplier estimates that all employees now have three devices connected to the Internet (PC, Smartphone, tablet, in one or more copies) and that each has 40 applications that constantly query an online service. Sometimes it is to update a score grid. Often to refresh a Facebook news feed. It is no longer possible to ban these flows, if only for societal reasons, but it is necessary to control them to prevent them from taking up the bandwidth that business applications need. Without control, i.e. without deploying a WAN monitoring system, the company would have no choice but to invest non-repayable funds in oversized connections.

It should be noted that such a monitoring system has the advantage of detecting network traffic congestion early on. Without this system, ISD can only solve bandwidth problems when employees themselves complain about using applications that have become too slow, adding to the technical disadvantage of managing a crisis among staff.

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