The seven scariest things about legacy WAN

From ancient and creaking architecture, through poor performance and leaking cash on unused bandwidth, to an alarming lack of visibility, there is lots to be scared about with the current state of the wide area network (WAN).

According to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, writing for Silver Peak, the seven scariest issues relating to legacy WANs are:

  1. Built on an old architecture.

Tricia Png

Some people tend to love old things, but technology is an area where this doesn’t pay off. We never see people using bag phones or Palm Pilots, as they don’t work as well as the new devices. So why are businesses running a WAN with an architecture developed 30 years ago? Old things often break, and eventually the legacy WAN is going to crumble in an increasingly digital world.r

  1. Wasting money on unused bandwidth.

Legacy WANs protect against outages with ‘active-passive’ technology where the backup connection can be used only when the primary fails. This means businesses have deployed and are managing a link that may never be used. Imagine building a road system where alternate routes can be used only when the main road fails. Each road would need to be overbuilt to accommodate all the traffic. This seems ridiculous but it’s the norm with networking. For many organisations the overspend on bandwidth leads to scary WAN bills.

  1. Poor network performance is costly.

A recent survey run by ZK Research found that workers are 14 per cent less productive because of poor application performance. Application performance is highly dependent on the network, particularly the WAN for cloud applications and workers in branch offices. Poor performance means workers suffer and are less productive which impacts the company’s top and bottom lines. Scary for the network manager.

  1. Lack of visibility into network traffic.

WAN transformation is a hot topic but how can one even begin the process unless there’s an understanding of what applications are running on the network and how much bandwidth they are using. This is critical to being able to set baselines, which has a number of benefits.

  1. Network management focus is misdirected.

People need the right tool for the job. Most network management platforms monitor faults by understanding the state of specific devices. This may seem useful, but networks are built with so much device redundancy that device outages rarely impact the business. The harder problem to solve is performance, where everything on the dashboard shows green but users are having problems. It’s critically important to manage application performance rather than network faults.

  1. Security is falling behind.

An interesting factoid from ZK Research is that 90 per cent of security spend is focused at the perimeter but only 20 per cent of breaches happen at that point. Bigger, more expensive firewalls won’t make organisations more secure as breaches are happening inside the network. A better approach is to use a technology, like software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) that enables secure segments to be created. Then if a breach does occur, the rest of the network is not impacted.

  1. Not evolving the WAN.

This can lead to the end of the engineer’s career. Since businesses need to move faster, failing to advance the network with new technologies will cause the organisation to fall behind its peers. Network engineers will benefit greatly by leading the transition to a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and keeping their career skills as well as their organisations’ competitive edge. The current state of the network is worrying and a poorly designed network can curtail the productivity of users and network operations. The way to combat all these issues is by implementing the latest technology. An SD-WAN can ward off all the scary things associated with legacy WANs.

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