A recent research article from Gartner, titled Hybrid Will Be the New Normal for Next Generation Enterprise WAN, makes a strong case for network architects and planners to think beyond basic access connectivity and to mesh together multiple WAN services, including MPLS & internet, to build a “hybrid WAN”.The new WAN will benefit the enterprises by providing flexibility for application traffic to be sent over the most optimal link, depending on application needs and links conditions. Thus the performance for high priority applications will always be the same or better than the best MPLS link in the network. Plus, adding Internet to the mix will bring benefits, namely reduced overall costs and a more cloud-friendly enterprise network.In effect, enterprise WAN should veer toward a design that brings out the best in each of its component links and delivers much more than the sum of its parts.

Well, we at Citrix agree with that motto. So much so that we now have a new offering along these lines: The newly announced CloudBridge Virtual WAN, which offers enterprises a solution to logically bond multiple, distinct WAN connections into one virtual link and send packets based on application needs and network performance.

Figure1: Virtualize the WAN

Traditionally, the majority of enterprises have primarily used MPLS links to connect their branches to the data-centers but there several reasons to question this practice:

Utilize the idle link and make failovers seamless

A lot of enterprises today already have a back-up WAN connection at office locations. It can be another MPLS line from a different vendor or an Internet line, but this back-up line is a resource that is fully paid for by the enterprise but remains largely idle except for when the primary link goes down.

Ignoring this resource is like saying that an enterprise can use only half of the building-space they have paid for or engage only half of their employee base in active projects at a time, but still pay everyone’s salary or utilize only half of the computer equipment that they bought and keep the other half as a back-up in case the first half conks out … you get the picture.

Using only half the WAN resources is a waste of money!

With CloudBridge virtual WAN, you can covert otherwise idle, back-up links to active. Change your dual MPLS deployment to work in active-active mode or augment MPLS with the Internet link. In the case that one link goes down, CloudBridge Virtual WAN makes the fail-over of traffic to the other link seamless for application user experience.

Scale WAN cost-effectively while maintaining desired reliability

While we are on the topic of money, there is the detail about disparity between the price you pay for per Mbps traffic in MPLS versus what you pay for a broadband internet connection or any other public WAN link. According to NetworkWorld’s report titled Why does MPLS cost so much more than Internet connectivity?, MPLS can be anywhere between 20 times to 100 times costlier than an Internet connection, depending on the part of the world where you are located. CloudBridge virtual WAN lets you logically bond together multiple links to scale up WAN capacity while providing the required reliability and at the same time drastically reduce the average per Mbps expense.

Bonding multiple public networks together boosts reliability

Although most service providers cover large areas, the fact of the matter is that MPLS is just not available everywhere. Businesses and government organizations may need to commission branches in the farthest reaches of the world and have a need for highly reliable connectivity. By bonding together multiple heterogeneous satellite and other internet links, CloudBridge Virtual WAN can diversify away the probability of all the links failing at the same time and thus prop an “always-on” branch, even in the absence of MPLS.

Not all applications are equal

Among the entire gamut of application traffic flowing over the enterprise network, not all traffic require MPLS-grade reliability and performance. We are talking about traffic such as bulk transfers or recreational traffic – that may be not be latency-sensitive or high priority or both. So matching application needs to the right network costs and characteristics is important. Choosing to offload low-priority traffic to inexpensive public internet paths, with CloudBridge virtual WAN, can clear up the primary MPLS link and potentially improve the quality and experience of high-priority applications. On the other end of spectrum, latency-sensitive applications like VoIP can send duplicate packets to ensure delivery through fastest possible path at any point in time.

Measurement and monitoring

CloudBridge virtual WAN measures network performance statistics to monitor the health of every link in each direction. Apart from utilizing the network information to make packet-path decisions, it also gives network administrators a complete dashboard view of the a network’s entire mesh of  data-centers and branches.

Animated concept video – WAN Virtualization with CloudBridge:

Curious to hear more? Come see us at Citrix Synergy session SYN208: CloudBridge: what’s new and what’s hot, as we talk about the  highlights from CloudBridge product line. And do drop by at booth no. 24 at Citrix Synergy Expo hall to see CloudBridge Virtual WAN technology firsthand.

Further reading: White paper on WAN Virtualization with Citrix CloudBridge