night-cityscape-clouldThere is always a trigger for an Enterprise to go through a WAN transformation. In the past, this trigger weighed heavily on refreshing old WAN routers because they are going through EoL (End of Life) or perhaps the throughput capabilities of those routers did not meet the growing needs of the Enterprise. The decision in the past was simply to do an “upgrade of my existing WAN technology”. While EoL and bandwidth are still triggers for a refresh, the decision for a WAN transformation for our customers weighs heavily on the ability to meet the growing cloud application needs of the Enterprise and the user experience for consumers of those applications. As a result, the SD WAN solution customers adopt must help them in their journey to a cloud-enabled Enterprise.

As a follow up from my last blog where I discussed some of the triggers for cloud adoption, in this blog I am going to focus on the specific pain points Enterprises face when making the transition to hybrid cloud for hosting business-critical applications, and why the SD WAN vendor plays a crucial role in solving these challenges.

Controlling the IaaS experience

Over the past several months we’ve had a number of customers come to us with the request to build secure connectivity to their development instances residing in a public cloud provider because they are moving most of their development environments to the cloud. Development instances are much easier to move to the cloud because they are not mission-critical. In most instances the network engineering team that operates the WAN is in charge of building this connectivity to the public cloud providers. The traditional method has been to build point-to-point IPSec tunnels from the data center to the public cloud provider but since these companies have made the transition to SD WAN the natural question becomes why can’t the SD WAN vendor help us build this connectivity? It’s a fair request. To the network engineering team, maintaining the Enterprise WAN will be much easier if there is a homogenous solution across branch, data center and public cloud instances.

While having a homogenous solution is one piece of the puzzle, it does not simplify cloud adoption for Enterprises. The next set of questions that come up relate to how this connectivity is built. Most vendors in the market offering this secure connectivity will recommend instantiating their software in the customer’s public cloud instance, so the question then becomes: “How is the SD WAN vendor’s appliance orchestrated in the public cloud? How do I control connectivity from specific segments within my network to the cloud?”

Once customers are able to operationalize connectivity and their development environment is running in the cloud, the next step is to move the production environment. At this point, availability and user experience for consumers of this application comes into question. All cloud providers have provisions to host application in a redundant fashion but these capabilities are only native to components offered by the cloud provider. For a 3rd party appliance vendor offered through the cloud provider’s marketplace, redundancy has to be offered by the appliance vendor. From our experience working on public cloud environments, this is by far the trickiest problem to solve. Most of the solutions we see in the market involve instantiating two instances per private cloud instance. For customers with tens or hundreds of instances in a given public cloud region, this approach does not scale well.

When an Enterprise begins to run their production environment in the cloud, there a lot of considerations as to how this environment is accessed from branch locations in a scalable and optimized fashion. Some customers choose to utilize private circuits (Direct connect for AWS, ExpressRoute for Azure) for guaranteed SLA, but this also means all cloud-bound traffic trombones through the data center which may not result in the best user experience. For direct branch-to-cloud connectivity, Internet offload is the best mechanism. That also means, however, that the public cloud instance now has to be able to build connectivity to all branches over the Internet and potentially maintain connectivity to the data center via the private circuit for some SLA-driven requirements.

I’ve posed a lot of questions in this blog but little answers. This was intentional. As an SD WAN vendor, we’ve realized consuming cloud-based services is critical to our customers’ business needs and the WAN plays a substantial role in helping this journey to cloud adoption.

In this week’s webinar, our CEO will be talking about how Viptela is planning to address this growing need to make cloud-based services more consumable.

I will do a follow up blog in the coming weeks to address pain points I have highlighted and go into more detail about the Viptela solution.

Ariful Huq

Ariful Huq

11+ years of experience spanning product management, sales, network architecture, service provider networks and operations