A 12-step program to break your routing addiction

Are you addicted to routing protocols? Do you use BGP more than you should? Enterprise Wide Area Networks (WANs) are in the beginning phases of a significant design shift. For years, WAN architectures have relied upon traditional routing protocols like BGP and OSPF to provide resiliency and failover. In modern networks, however, traditional routing protocols are falling short of the requirements for smooth and efficient application delivery.

The purpose of a routing protocol is to pick a path to direct network traffic. If that path should become unavailable, the routing protocol crunches some metrics to choose a new path. Problems arise when these routing protocols either take too long to determine a path, or they may not be capable of looking at the best metrics to efficiently deliver network traffic on the best path.

It’s time to break networks of the dependence on routing protocols. Enter SD-WAN technology. An SD-WAN can do many things for many people, but at it’s core an SD-WAN changes the way IT teams approach the management of traffic across the WAN. SD-WANs can help break the reliance on routing protocols.

Here’s the 12-steps to help break the dependence on routing protocols:

  1. Admit that enterprises have lost control over the WAN. Modern networks are extremely fragile and hard to manage effectively.
  2. Acknowledge that the only thing more complex than the network itself, are the complex change processes that serve to insure that even routine network updates and changes take far too long to implement.
  3. Consider the original reason for using routing protocols. Be honest: the majority of time, routing protocols simply look at link status (up/down) and use CPU-intensive algorithms to decide which link to choose. When a network link changes status (cue the backhoe!), the routing protocol will re-calculate the best path at that time.
  4. Stop wasting time trying to lower convergence times. If you’ve spent any time configuring an enterprise network, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time configuring your favorite routing protocol for the lowest convergence time. If you’re an OSPF person, you may have been able to realize convergence times in the 5 second range. If you’re a BGP person, you may be happy with re-convergence that takes a few minutes. The very fact so much time gets spent considering how to make network convergence happen faster is indicative of the key problem with routing protocols. Wouldn’t we all like to live in a world where network convergence times were zero — or at least very close to it? Better yet — what if we didn’t have to even think about convergence? How nice would it be to have VOIP calls endure a link outage? Or a latency spike? Traditional routing protocols are not the answer.
  5. Lower Your MTTI (Mean Time To Innocence). Utilize the improved visibility and control of an SD-WAN to diagnose and troubleshoot issues efficiently.
  6. Get your life back. SD-WAN technologies like Dynamic Path Control allow the network to endure outages, brownouts, and other performance issues. Your phone won’t ring just because a road crew dug through one of your MPLS links or someone in LA decided to download a large file. Your resilient SD-WAN will shine through these types of occurrences.
  7. Discover the power of virtual overlays. Need to build a highly available full mesh network tailored for VOIP? Need a hub and spoke network for your backup traffic? Prefer to route non-critical traffic directly over the Internet? Want to have all your North American sites use LTE wireless for failover? Virtual network overlays give you functionality that would be difficult, if not impossible, in a legacy WAN.
  8. Own the Cloud. Cloud apps getting out of control? Have trouble identifying which SaaS apps are in use on the network and where they’re going? Need to control and track the flow of company data as it traverses numerous cloud-hosted services? An SD-WAN can allow you the flexibility to regain control over your SaaS deployments. Know where your data is going and keep it safe.
  9. Make a list of all applications that have underperformed across your legacy WAN. Maybe they are SaaS users that feel the negative impact of having their traffic backhauled to a central data center instead of just heading out to the Internet directly. Maybe you have unreliable VOIP and Video conferencing that is being noticed by Executive staff. Consider apologizing to the users of these applications. Tell them that you were using the best tools you had available at the time. Assure them that better application performance is on the way once you deploy your SD-WAN.
  10. Commit to building a network that lets the business needs drive the technology, not the other way around. Consider using LTE wireless to quickly deploy new sites.
  11. Plan your migration. Good news! You can deploy your new SD-WAN over top of your existing physical infrastructure. There’s no need to rip and replace (unless you want to) existing route/switch infrastructure. Implement with zero-touch provisioning (read: no need to send technicians to every site) and future proof your existing WAN.
  12. With your initial SD-WAN deployment underway, sit back and consider the possibilities. Want to utilize that backup Internet link that has just been sitting idle? Put it to work using multi-path load balancing. Forget everything you ever knew about the time-consuming art of configuring a router for low convergence and enjoy the benefits of automatic sub-second failover. Inform your VOIP admins that they can once again eat lunch and sleep through the night since your VOIP system will now easily endure network brownouts and blackouts!

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