Cloud is the future for many businesses. An increasing number of applications are created on the cloud by default to support the hybrid workforce. Similarly, existing business applications are also migrating to the cloud as businesses need improved user experience from anywhere. Legacy architectures that have a centralized data center are inherently limited in delivering cloud adoption. Additionally, many of the technologies that were developed specifically for such architectures are also becoming outdated. Among them is the much sought-after solution: WAN Optimization.
WAN Optimization Works for Legacy Architectures and Selective Applications
The growth of WAN optimization was fueled by application performance and driven by the effects of WAN impairments like latency, jitter, and packet loss that impacted network performance. Moreover, bandwidth reduction was the primary objective of any WAN optimization solution. With this in mind, WAN optimization was specifically designed for TCP-based applications with a two-way acknowledged transaction where both sender and receiver are well determined and easy to optimize. This made WAN optimization work better for bookended architecture, packet-based solutions, and applications using TCP as the underlying protocol. IT administrators could apply WAN optimization techniques like deduplication, compression, caching, and equalizing while limiting the number of connections per protocol or application.
Applications and Networks Evolved, Leading to SD-WAN’s Popularity
According to Gartner®, “By 2025, to deliver flexible, cost-effective, scalable bandwidth, 40% of enterprise locations will have only internet WAN connectivity, compared with 15% in 2021”.
The fact is applications have long moved from bidirectional, transaction-heavy TCP protocols to lightweight UDP-based like UCaaS, SaaS, and even critical business applications. In addition, the applications have shifted to the cloud making public broadband, and direct internet access as preferred WAN transports with more bandwidth available links and path redundancy using decentralized architecture. With this transformation, businesses quickly realized that their packet-based solutions limited their performance due to random packet spraying and lack of performance SLAs-based control for application traffic. It is pretty apparent that a complex bookended, TCP-focused, packet-based, and selective application supporting WAN optimization might reduce bandwidth utilization but fails to improve the user experience for today’s infrastructure. Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) with its session-based, application performance SLAs and intelligent traffic management, has become the de-facto solution for any organization to overcome its legacy architecture and WAN optimization limitations.
Exceptional User Experience Demands a Next-Generation SD-WAN Solution
SD-WAN has been in existence for close to a decade and is now a crowded market. Analysts like Gartner evaluate vendors based on their ability to execute and vision to help customers in their buyer’s journey. Palo Alto Networks was once again positioned as a Leader for its ability to execute and completeness of vision in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant™ for WAN Edge Infrastructure report. We believe this showcases our strengths as an add-on feature to their SD-WAN and pure-play WAN optimization vendors with SD-WAN bolted onto their optimization engine.
Our application-defined, cloud-delivered, and autonomous approach to WAN optimization delivers the best user experience for all applications. Instead of relying on Layer 3 metrics enabled on a bookended, packet-based solution, we provide application performance based on critical Layer 7 metrics like server response time, application response time, application transaction failures, and mean opinion score (MOS) score to meet SLA requirements. Our decision-making process is based on per application session that ensures critical application traffic is still prioritized, traffic engineered, and remediated per user. For example, when users are on a Zoom call, we can optimize this traffic over WAN based on SLAs, QoS prioritization, and in particular, MOS score thus ensuring the best user experience.
Our unique API-based CloudBlades allows customers to simplify and further automate integrations to third-party services and applications like cloud, UCaaS, and operations workflow. For instance, with our UCaaS CloudBlade, we can provide detailed call records for the admin to look at the overall application performance and end-to-end visibility in the call. In addition, Palo Alto Networks recently expanded Autonomous Digital Experience Management (ADEM) to Prisma SD-WAN for branch offices and all users. Network administrators can now expedite troubleshooting by gaining access to granular hop-by-hop performance impact per application, per user, and per network, segment using ADEM’s real and synthetic traffic to measure performance, provide comprehensive digital experience visibility, and ensure exceptional application performance.
Read the full 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for the WAN Edge Infrastructure report with a complimentary copy today.
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Gartner, Magic Quadrant WAN Edge Infrastructure, 20 September 2021, Jonathan Forest | Naresh Singh