Build Reliability into Cloud Computing for SMBs
WAN Link Controllers Deliver Benefits to SMB Customers
By: Marc Goodman
Sep. 23, 2009 05:30 PM
With IP networks taking on many new challenges from VoIP, rich multimedia and other high-bandwidth consuming and high-priority applications, SMBs need to be sure the network connectivity between their business and Cloud Computing provider is protected with controls for reliable Internet circuit availability, and for optimizing delivery of traffic to critical applications.
To that end, managed service providers that outsource applications and network services for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) within a cloud-computing environment are finding great value in protecting their Internet-based services from network downtime and IP circuit performance problems.
As SMBs look to cloud-computing outsource providers for cost-effective and reliable delivery of their mission-critical applications such as ERP, CRM, VoIP, email and other applications, there is a need for the managed service providers to ensure that the network over which their services run has the reliability to deliver continuous uptime to their customers. However, the ability to provide reliable application delivery over the Internet, and provide appropriate bandwidth and performance at a reasonable cost is a concern. Compound that with the fact that most MSPs have dozens, and even hundreds of customers using the same Internet circuit to run their applications. If that circuit goes down for even 10 minutes, all their customers are adversely affected.
When an Internet circuit has its bandwidth compromised, applications such as VoIP and video conferencing are adversely affected. As opposed to a LAN, where the IT department has control over its network, SMBs have no control over applications going over the Internet. The Internet was not developed with the demands of modern commerce. Internet delays can cost a business revenue and employee productivity loss. Even if web-based applications are developed with this in mind, the Internet can be a bottleneck due to latency and traffic congestion. In addition to Internet circuits that may be over-loaded, other events can cause applications to fail, such as network hardware failure, human error and natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Also, the Internet does not distinguish between a mission-critical business transaction and a general web page and does not assign guaranteed quality-of-service for applications. If an SMB has an unlimited IT budget for Internet infrastructure, and personnel to monitor and manage its Internet infrastructure, it might be able to make it work. However, for most SMBs that is not an option.
Without the proper controls, these issues will continue to lead to loss of business and declining customer satisfaction. The resulting consequences are unacceptable when it costs ten times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep a current one; however, there is hope for maintaining connectivity. WAN Link Controllers provide Internet circuit load balancing and failover that deliver an easy and affordable solution to these challenges.
Using WAN Link Controllers, MSPs can now deliver reliable service for their outsourced applications to SMB customers. By solving the issue of reliable, secure and cost-effective connectivity, outsource service providers can ensure their credibility with their customers, while being able to flexibly and cost-effectively scale their network infrastructure to a broader clientele.
Virtual WAN Networking
In today's economy, SMBs are looking for ways to get more for less. By using WAN Link Controllers, they can take advantage of low-cost Internet circuits such as DSL, fiber, cable and wireless, and combine them into a virtual "wide-pipe" for much less than a single T3, or even T1 circuit. For that matter, they can also add Internet circuit redundancy to an existing T1 by adding a second business-class cable circuit and have the WAN Link Controller automatically manage the two circuits. Not only do they gain flexible bandwidth capacity - they can also buy cost-effective circuits from multiple ISPs so that if one circuit goes down, network traffic is automatically directed to the other circuit.
By bundling multiple, diverse Internet circuits, WAN Link Controllers reduce the need to purchase expensive high-speed circuits. This enables SMBs to increase bandwidth by using cost-effective circuits without compromising network uptime. This allows them to choose the Internet circuit performance/cost ratio that best fits their needs and gives them complete ISP independence. For example, if they have a T1 circuit (1.5 Mbps), and need additional bandwidth, they would typically have to upgrade to a T3 circuit (45 Mbps). However, this may be significantly more bandwidth than they require and will be a significant increase in cost.
With a WAN Link Controller, this same scenario can be accomplished with two 768 Kbps DSL circuits that can be combined for a total aggregated bandwidth equivalent to a T1 - at a fraction of the cost. The SMB can add additional lower speed links such as DSL, cable, wireless, and others, with a relatively small increase in cost that can more closely match their needs. In addition to receiving more cost-effective bandwidth, they are dramatically increasing the reliability of their WAN network due to the new levels of redundancy through the aggregation of multiple Internet circuits.
WAN Link Controllers Enable MSPs to Grow Their Services and Market Reach
From the customer's perspective, IT departments face pressures to control costs while meeting the increasing demands on the network. As applications' thirst for bandwidth continues to increase, centralizing servers and services reduces some costs, but places increasing pressure on network reliability and response time. New services such as VoIP and video conferencing only further increase the pressure on network reliability and predictability.
Without reliability and performance predictability over the Internet, many IT personnel are not willing to outsource their mission-critical applications. While many SMBs build their private WAN with a VPN over the Internet, the lack of reliability and application predictability prevents them from taking full advantage of inexpensive Internet.
Outsource service providers have developed a great deal of expertise and economies of scale from building and managing hosted datacenters and co-location facilities. These facilities offer excellent, high-bandwidth connectivity over the Internet to multiple locations throughout the country and the world. Virtualization technologies further benefit the outsource datacenter provider in terms of economies of scale and the efficient use and management of capital equipment.
The Market Opportunity
WAN Link Controllers bring an additional layer of control to manage multiple circuits, enabling IT personnel to adapt their network infrastructure in order to reliably support the delivery of mission-critical applications over the Internet. They direct Internet traffic to the best performing, most accessible Internet circuits. Should one of the circuits become inaccessible due to a bottleneck or failure, the WAN Link Controller will take that circuit out of service, and automatically re-direct traffic to other functioning circuits. This process is seamless to the user.
WAN Link Controllers intelligently distribute user traffic among multiple, diverse ISP circuits. Advanced products include Internet circuit aggregation; automated inbound and outbound load balancing and failover; site-to-site channel bonding with stateful failover, multi-site failover and fallback, QoS and traffic shaping, VPN load balancing and redundancy and built-in VPN and firewall technology.
In sum, WAN Link Controllers offer the following value propositions:
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