Businesses are moving more data through the WAN than they have in the past. Cloud apps, video conferences, live stream events and viewing on-demand video all put a huge strain on the WAN. This stands in stark contrast to how organizations used to operate. Apps and services were housed in the data center, which connected directly to the LAN, and ensured that users were depending on the parts of the network with the most bandwidth to get the job done. As organizations have moved toward depending heavily on Web-based services, they have also become extremely dependent on their WANs.
This reliance on the WAN presents businesses with major problems. WANs have severely limited bandwidth capacity as the WAN is primarily used for Internet traffic, which has traditionally required less data than the services moving through the LAN. As more of those services are delivered through the cloud and companies use the WAN to move video traffic between geographically diverse locations, they are running into a major innovation roadblock. The WAN simply can’t keep up, and making both internal and external hardware upgrades isn’t enough to compensate for its inherent limitations – the WAN focuses on transporting data over large distances, not on transporting large quantities of data.
What are your options with a WAN?
A WAN traditionally has left organizations with a few options when it comes to improving network performance. These include:
- Upgrading the hardware – You could try to invest in a more robust WAN system, but video can overwhelm the network so thoroughly that you would need a huge hardware upgrade to keep up. You’d end up spending heavily to maintain a WAN service plan with enough bandwidth to handle ambitious video strategies. Converting over to a metropolitan area network system may be an option, but that hinges on your operations being siloed in a specific metropolitan location where you can take advantage of localized dark fiber. It is only feasible in highly specific settings, and may still struggle, to some degree, to handle video bandwidth.
- Investing in WAN acceleration – Traditional methods of WAN acceleration and WAN optimization are built around strategically routing data through the network to maximize efficiency. This means that data is organized in such a way that packets move through infrastructure without getting in each other’s way. This works excellently when handling data-rich load times or even basic video content, but standard acceleration and optimization solutions are ill equipped to handle large quantities of high-definition video moving through the network.
The limitations of these two WAN improvement options make video come across as an unsolvable problem. However, enterprise content delivery network solutions are building on the foundational principles of WAN acceleration and optimization, but taking them to another level. This is possible through virtualization, as software-defined technologies are giving organizations a new option when it comes to getting the WAN to a place where it can support large-scale video programs.
“Bandwidth is the ultimate video problem. ECDNs solve it.”
ECDN platforms – the new WAN option
Bandwidth is the ultimate video problem. High-definition video creates such large data packets that most networks can’t keep up. Even a high-performance WAN, not to mention many LANs, will struggle to handle the unique capacity demands created when deploying an ambitious video strategy. You can’t just reroute that data over traditional channels either, because the amount of information is so huge that your hardware won’t be able to deal with it, even if the system is optimized. ECDNs work around these problems through a strategic data sharing and routing methodology that virtualizes your network.
Traditionally, data routing pathways are limited by the network’s architecture. As only certain routers and switches are interacting with specific systems, you only have the bandwidth available from that hardware to work with. When you’ve virtualized your network, the routing controller can strategically analyze the entire architecture as a singe resource and use infrastructure based on its availability. Virtualization effectively abstracts your hardware from the software that controls the network, letting the ECDN move data however it needs to in order to get it to end users. This changes the WAN routing game entirely, as it allows video to work around the limitations of any one part of your network to reach end users.
An ECDN can mix and match three delivery strategies – cloud-to-endpoint, endpoint-to-endpoint and endpoint-to-multiple endpoints. This creates a situation in which the system can circumvent limiting parts of your network and move data through diverse pathways to get it where it needs to go. This is all accomplished through a hosted network controller, giving you intelligent routing over abstracted hardware without having to make infrastructure upgrades. The result is a cost-efficient network upgrade that moves as much as 90 percent of video traffic off of your standard network pathways and ensures that video avoids the traditional bottlenecks that exist within the WAN.