Why existing monitoring solutions do not deliver on the SD-WAN promise

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According to a recent survey run by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), 2018 marks the first time that cloud and software-defined data centre concerns have become the top priority for enterprise network teams. Borne out of this is a continuation of the rapid proliferation of network virtualisation technologies as well as software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN).

An increase in the adoption of SD-WAN technology and more virtualised networks really comes as no surprise when the benefits are considered. SD-WAN has enabled enterprises to expand their businesses, providing remotely located employees with access to mission critical applications hosted on the cloud. In addition to facilitating adoption of cloud-based applications and services, SD-WAN has also brought enterprises access to more bandwidth, security optimisation and helped them to achieve more comprehensive and conclusive network control and monitoring.

SD-WAN has been a huge leap forward in terms of improving overall visibility and centralised management control of an enterprise network, however, it has also led to increased complexity. Orchestration and automation have become more prevalent in networking as a result of SD-WAN solutions. The technology is now capable of coordinating the hardware and software elements needed to support applications and services. But, many monitoring solutions are not yet up to the task of ensuring this whole process runs smoothly.

As it stands, there is still a gap in Quality of Experience (QoE) visibility even with SD-WAN solutions. Essentially, an enterprise’s wide area network (WAN) indicators might all be “green”, but the end user is still experiencing performance degradations. So what needs to be done for enterprises to achieve full QoE visibility, and deliver great end user experience to over the SD-WAN?

Going beyond Quality of Service (QoS)

Traditional network monitoring solutions have always been concerned with monitoring the core network infrastructure/WAN, be that either an MPLS or Carrier Ethernet, to ensure a great Quality of Service (QoS) to network users. Network monitoring vendors can assure operators are able to deliver a superior QoS due to the capabilities of identifying issues related to network performance degradation. These monitoring solutions pinpoint exactly where network delays are occurring for the operators to quickly address the issue.

While enabling operators and network owners to deliver greater QoS is significantly important, there is still an existing limitation with traditional network monitoring solutions. Although monitoring vendors are able to highlight network degradation and confirm whether an application is running successfully on the network, they are unable to detect problems associated with application performance. Without a significant level of granularity and visibility into application performance, enterprises are incapable of achieving the full visibility required to provide the end user with great QoE, or what the industry calls, application QoE assurance.

Enterprises will continue to benefit from SD-WAN, but to really know how an end user is experiencing an application, application performance assurance monitoring is required. SD-WAN promises to enable many small enterprises to digitally transform and grow. However, without visibility into application performance, it is likely that the end user will still experience performance issues that go unnoticed, even with today’s SD-WAN revolution.

Incorporating application QoE assurance

The Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model breaks down telecommunications networks into seven layers. Layers one to three of this network stack is the area by which traditional network monitoring is concerned, meaning that there is little insight provided into the performance of layers four to seven. The upper layers are where we find the SD-WAN overlay.

The issue here, however, is that while SD-WAN monitoring is concerned with network performance to deliver a quality network for application delivery, SD-WAN monitoring does not monitor the performance application transaction delay and server delay. Essentially, this leaves a gap in its ability to also assure for QoE. This is significant because in order for enterprises to achieve full QoE visibility, both types of monitoring need to be incorporated.

N/APM solutions aim to provide end users with greater experience, through an ability to identify issues such as application transaction delay, server response delay or application transactional code delay, by building a profile of the application, what it is doing and how it is being experienced by the end user. The reason why application performance visibility is therefore so critical, is because without it, an enterprise cannot troubleshoot or optimise application performance issues to deliver better end user experience.

Reaching a unified view of the network for full QoE visibility

SD-WAN is certainly a step toward improving QoE, but enterprises must assure application performance. To ensure reliable application performance enterprises also need to monitor application transaction delay, server response delay and application transactional code delay. As it stands, monitoring solutions do not provide the full visibility to do so. What enterprises need is monitoring solutions capable of providing a full unified view of all seven layers of the network, as this will be instrumental in achieving full QoE visibility.

QoE need not be subjective. By achieving centralised control over application and network performance management, enterprises will be delivering on the SD-WAN promise to provide end users with flexible and reliable access to cloud-based applications and services which have dramatically improved productivity, business functionality and the ability for enterprises to grow and scale.

By unifying Application QoE monitoring with SD-WAN QoS monitoring, enterprises can achieve an almost omniscient view of true end user experience. With technology continuing to disrupt conventional methods of work and play, enterprises are under increased pressure to deliver a superior end user experience for both its customers and employees. Full QoE visibility is the solution in overcoming that challenge and an enterprise will only achieve it through network QoS assurance and application QoE assurance. 

Michael Rezek, VP Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, Accedian
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