Opinion

The new WAN: Virtualization, user-aware optimization, and more

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Rivka Gerwitz Little In all the hubbub about software-defined networking (SDN) and network programmability, it’s easy to lose focus on traditional wide area networking technologies. Yet WAN innovation is plentiful these days, with radical developments in the way we architect and manage networks.

This innovation will be driven, in part, by SDN and network virtualization. New technology will enable a sort of WAN-on-demand where service providers and enterprises can automatically spin up long-distance virtual networks to interconnect data centers, campuses and remote offices. Soon these long-distance virtual segments will be able to cross network domains to enable granular routing across hybrid clouds, for example.

But it’s not just SDN driving the new WAN. WAN optimization itself is now being optimized. In this issue of The Network Evolution, we learn that WAN optimization and application acceleration can be improved by technology that lets admins prioritize applications and data according to user identity, location, time of day and other factors. With that, enterprises can better serve diverse branch offices and a wide range of remote workers who are accessing core applications on many different types of devices.

Beyond WAN optimization, we’re seeing innovation in the way enterprises are building their WANs. In this issue, we learn about Ethernet-dedicated Internet (Ethernet DIA), which provides Internet connectivity over an Ethernet fiber optic connection with bandwidths ranging from 1 Mbps to 10 Gbps. Enterprises are turning to Ethernet DIA services to enable hybrid-cloud computing, handle bandwidth-intensive applications and to bolster their business continuity and disaster recovery strategies. Dedicated Ethernet is one of many examples of how enterprises are looking to service providers for WAN services that offer them on-premises style management capabilities in an external network.

Yet, all of this is not to say that emerging technologies will completely displace legacy networks and the way we run them. As Marc Goodman writes in the new Voice of the Evolution blog: “With all of the potential problems that could occur with SDN implementation, you’d better take a really deep breath before diving in.” With any new technology there are as many unanswered questions as there are potential advances, he points out. To enjoy the range of recent innovations, users will have to closely investigate the choices and travel what could be a bumpy road.

This was first published in June 2013

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