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Enterprise networking reaching for the clouds: 4 steps to service-aware WAN

By Vishwas Manral, Distinguished Technologist, HP Networking, Advanced Technology Group


vishwas1.jpgIt’s oft repeated that the next big wave hitting the IT shores is cloud computing. When I was tasked with taking care of the vision and direction of the entire HP router portfolio, I obviously decided to delve deeper into what “cloud” means for our router portfolio. Here are some of my findings, results of my research and insight into the exciting technologies we are now developing collaboratively.




The current state


It did not take very long for me to realize that while much enterprise focus is on the cloud and massive data centers, it is the WAN connectivity that could be the key differentiator to deliver cloud functionality for enterprises. 

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A lot of sweat has been put on working on the ability to control flows (Software Defined Networking or SDN) within the enterprise network and HP has some very interesting solutions for the same. It is the WAN connectivity between the enterprise components that in my mind could help unleash the true power of the enterprise cloud.


The challenges


11-18-2011 1-58-28 PM.jpgWe all know the distance between the application and its user is only increasing. As services are moved out to a consolidated data center/cloud, the user has to now traverse the WAN to access applications that were earlier designed to be on the LAN. What’s more, with the increased use of the public cloud, we no longer have the advantage of symmetric acceleration.


Different services have different expectations network characteristics of loss, latency, jitter and bandwidth. Quality of Experience (QoE) is critical for a user and all aspects of the network need to be made service aware to best optimize the WAN network.


Existing mechanisms  monitor the predefined WAN paths and use one that best meets the requirements. However no mechanism to allow the WAN path to optimize for the application service characteristics exists. The current WAN can provide us functionality like bandwidth reservations with MPLS. But just throwing more bandwidth cannot provide us services like low latency, which are becoming more critical.


4 steps to service-aware WAN


We figured that different applications have different requirements from the network. While some want high bandwidth, others may require path redundancy, while still others may require low latency, no loss or low jitter, or any combination of the mentioned properties.

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  1. The first step is to make the WAN service aware, by allowing the network to understand latency, loss, jitter and other service aware characteristics. Here is the work we have collaborated on with the broader industry in the IETF to drive the solutions forward.
  2. The next step is for the Path Computation Element (PCE software controller) to be able to compute and provide paths based on the properties, and then set those paths on the WAN network.
  3. Next the enterprise WAN edge router needs to classify applications on network service properties of latency, loss, jitter and bandwidth and place application traffic on different paths based on the service characteristics.
  4. Finally, at the network level, we also need application admission control to protect against QoS collapse due to excessive real-time multimedia traffic and also to prevent starvation-induced failures of non-real time, business-critical and other important applications.

With this solution, we can make sure that traffic that is latency sensitive like video is given a completely different path through the WAN from a storage backup traffic, which is more throughput sensitive. Once these technologies are in place, we can extend the application to reside remotely from the user and to make the best use of the WAN network. The PCE software controller can in the future act as an extension of the Software Defined Network (SDN) in the campus and the data center. It also optimizes paths, even over the WAN network.


It is my belief that these technologies will help spur the enterprise cloud adoption, and realize the next IT wave. What to you think? I would encourage you to send across any comments you may have about this.


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