Time to think outside the router

An application driven SD-WAN provides the intelligence to connect users to applications directly and securely, using the most direct means available

I finally delivered four large boxes with nearly 1,000 CDs inside to my local library, some as old as 33 years. Back then, I did a similar decluttering with my cassettes and vinyl, except for a few select albums like an original release of Dark Side of the Moon.

Music has gone from 12” vinyl to more compact cassette tapes, to even more compact CDs and now streaming services that connect listeners to music anywhere, anytime.

Just as music technology has changed over the years to provide more flexibility on how music is consumed, the application consumption model has changed too. The job of the wide area network (WAN) has always been to connect users to applications. WAN technology based on conventional branch routers, however, hasn’t kept up to provide the optimal means of connecting to them.

It’s all in the cloud

Listening to records used to be a hobby you just “did” on a lazy afternoon or during an evening over cocktails. Then we wanted to take our music with us, made possible by cassette tapes and the Walkman. Later we wanted to take more of our music with us and MP3 players let us rip and load the equivalent of all my boxes of CDs onto a device smaller than a deck of cards.

Fast forward to the last 18 years with the creation of Napster and music streaming. We could access almost any song from almost anywhere, anytime. Music now resides in the cloud and doesn’t have to be hosted on our bookshelves.

The same is happening with applications. Traditionally, enterprises hosted all of their applications in their own data centres. Users would connect to applications from branch offices over private WANs built on X.25, frame relay and later, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS).

Coincidentally – or maybe not – in the same timeframe as the birth of streaming music services, cloud computing and nascent software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies like emerged. Today, users can connect to SaaS and IaaS from anywhere, anytime.

But the old 1980s router-centric WAN model isn’t cloud friendly. It requires backhauling SaaS and IaaS traffic to the data centre before being sent to the cloud. This adds latency (delay) that negatively impacts performance. Why not simply connect directly and securely over the internet to the applications you need to be productive?

An application driven software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) provides the intelligence to connect users to applications directly and securely, using the most direct means available, delivering a superior user experience. I don’t want to go home and rip a new song to my MP3 player that I want to hear now when I can access it immediately from the cloud without delay.

Make it easy

Back in the day, if I wanted to listen to a particular song, I’d have to remember the artist, the album and then search my CD shelves for it. Then I’d take out the CD, load it and select the song. Managing and consuming music was far more difficult than it is today. Now, I simply type in a song title into a search window – or even just ask Siri/Alexa/Cortana – and it plays.

Powerful centralised orchestration is similar in its way of making it much easier to manage the WAN. I no longer have to spend endless hours programming application quality of service (QoS) and security policies one-by-one, device-by-device using a cumbersome command-line interface (CLI).

With a few mouse clicks via an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI), I can define how I want applications to be handled based on business intent. You can configure application policies once and push them to all 50 or 5,000 of your branch offices with one click, saving time and minimising the potential for errors.

SD-WAN enables you to automatically connect users to applications over the best paths without having to manually program subnets and access control lists. It’s kind of like selecting a music genre on a streaming service – it just plays what I like to hear.

Just as it was time to retire my CD collection for a better, more flexible and more enjoyable way to consume music, now’s the time to take conventional branch routers and set them free. It’s time to think outside the router with an application driven SD-WAN solution to provide a better cloud first experience.

Derek Granath is VP of product marketing for Silver Peak. He leads the product marketing and technical marketing engineering teams responsible for product positioning and messaging for service provider and enterprise SD-WAN offerings.