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For a number of years, the discussion has been about digital transformation, increasing automation, SD-WANs, data protection, security, and every type of cloud. In 2023, these are still likely to play an important role in organisations and in data centres and now multi-cloud and hybrid cloud are driving changes in data centre networks. This is to better manage new security rollouts, introduce new levels of automation and to also help push forward evolving net-ops strategies. Michael Cooney, Senior Editor at Network World, writes in his article, ‘Data center networking trends to watch for 2023’ of 16th December 2022, that hybrid cloud and multi-cloud will continue to impact on key areas of security, management, and operations within data centres throughout 2023. He adds: “Network teams are investing in technologies, such as SD-WAN and Secure access service edge (SASE), expanding automation initiatives, and focusing on skills development as more workloads and applications span cloud environments.”
Mary Reines, News Writer at Techtarget, finds that enterprises also require new ways to develop higher-efficiency networks, while limiting overheads and personnel. Reducing capital and operational expenditure is seen as vital as organisations emerge from the last 3 years of the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated lockdown restrictions, to face the potentially grim prospect of a deep worldwide recession. To keep costs down, enterprises need to find ways of doing more with fewer resources. Reines, therefore, comments in her article, ‘Multi-cloud networking trends to watch in 2023’ of 3rd January 2023: “Analysts predict that going into 2023, companies will invest in products that save money and resources, as networks drift deeper into the cloud. These multi-cloud networking trends include network as a service, connectivity for a cloud-native network function and more observability for network security.”
2023: Strategic imperative
She cites Shamus McGillicuddy, Vice President of Network Management Research at Enterprise Management Associates, who comments: “I think more networking pros will start looking at multi-cloud networking as a strategic imperative in 2023."
Reines believes that this could involve a wide range of products and services – including network-as-a-service (NaaS) providers, data centre networking overlays that will extend into the cloud, SD-WANs and cloud networking experts.
As usual, what’s missing from most of the discussions about networking is the impact that latency and packet loss have on network performance. This doesn’t dismiss the trends that the industry experts are talking about, but cost-efficiencies aren’t always gained by re-architecting an organisation’s existing network by buying new network technologies. For example, organisations can purchase higher bandwidth with the aim of allowing data to flow faster, but still find that latency dogs them.
Limitations of technologies
It also remains wise to consider the limitations of technologies, such as SD-WANs, and to keep an eye out for technologies that enable enterprises to keep their existing infrastructure going, while increasing network performance by mitigating the effects of latency and packet loss. Rather than focusing on bandwidth, organisations in 2023 could also concentrate on increasing their existing bandwidth utilisation as, quite often, the advertised bandwidth of connectivity often falls short.
David Trossell comments: “We find that the SD-WAN providers support for traditional data flows is now inadequate for today’s high-speed high-volume transfers, and the SD-WAN world is much larger
than these providers.” He also wonders why so many companies have turned to SD-WANs, and away from MPLS.
In response, he argues that: “SD-WANs have the ability to bring into play multiple differing transports and this involves combining them under one virtual WAN to address different WAN requirements”. He finds that SD-WANs can bring into play multiple differing transports, which oftens means that they are united under one virtual WAN to address different WAN requirements.
That said, organisations are often happy to put up with limited network performance. The trouble is that “SD-WANs do not solve the problem of latency and its friend packet loss – both of which have a devastating effect on performance,” explains Trossell. MPLS also still suffers from it, be it to a lesser extent, and so there is a need for a new approach to optimise bandwidth.
Traditional optimisation methods
The traditional methods of optimising bandwidth using compression and deduplication no longer work on modern data sets, and he says they tend to limit themselves to throughputs of 1Gb/s and below. This means there is a need for other technologies, such as WAN Acceleration, which deploy artificial intelligence, machine learning and data parallelisation to mitigate latency and packet loss, while maximising bandwidth utilisation.
Trossell offers his top tips for mitigating latency in order to change the status quo in 2023:
· Remember SD-WANs will not solve latency. However, they allow you to control the path the data takes. In fact, the only way you can reduce latency is to shorten the distance the data has to travel. The only other option is to mitigate the effects of latency.
· Remember that it is not possible to mitigate the effects of latency on all traffic flows. Short bursting application data that is latency-dependent should be steered down your lowest latency path. This may be an MPLS or a leased line. However, if most of the other traffic you have can flow over other connections (if the effects of latency and packet loss can be mitigated), then it is possible to reduce the bandwidth requirement of the MPLS or the leased line with resulting cost reduction.
· Use mitigation techniques to restore performance: For all other data traffic this can be steered over broadband or 4/5G connection using mitigation techniques to restore performance in the face of latency and packet loss.
· Consider solutions such as PORTrockIT and WANrockIT, which enable data to be sent securely and at speed over large distances by mitigating the effects of latency. It’s also important to remember that the large WAN optimisation vendors may not offer the innovation needed to address latency and packet loss problems in the fast, secure and efficient manner that most organisations are crying out for. Think more widely!
SD-WANs won’t necessarily change the status quo of networking because they won’t and can’t address on their own the network performance issues that are affecting many organisations today. So, while SD-WANs will inevitably be a top trend in 2023, enterprise during the year should think about going beyond them to add a WAN Acceleration overlay, which can boost their performance, while allowing organisations to maintain their existing infrastructure. This permits enterprises to rethink wide area networks, allowing them to agnostically and securely send and receive data at high speed over huge distances between data centres, branch offices and disaster recovery sites.