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As organizations shift more communications and collaboration applications to the cloud, it's increasingly important to assess the ability of the underlying data network to support cloud traffic. Enterprises moving to the cloud should address internet and WAN connections, as well as opportunities to reduce costs, by adopting emerging technologies like software-defined wide area networks, or SD-WANs.
At Nemertes Research, in our conversations with IT leaders, we find that most organizations implementing unified communications as a service (UCaaS) connect to their providers "over the top" via existing internet connections. This approach is usually sufficient to meet voice and video needs for small companies where each office has a high-speed internet connection.
Larger companies tend to have WANs that are designed for client-server data flows in which most traffic runs between PCs and data stores in the data center. Midsize and small satellite offices may not have their own local internet connectivity; instead, all internet traffic is backhauled to a small number of internet connection points. Teleworkers may need to connect to the enterprise network via a virtual private network, even to access the internet.
In a UCaaS environment, all endpoints must connect to the UCaaS provider's data center to facilitate cloud traffic. In this legacy architecture, limited internet connection points can quickly become a bottleneck.
The obvious way around this constraint -- directly connecting all offices to the internet -- may not be viable due to cost or security concerns. Instead, enterprises should evaluate other options to streamline cloud traffic:
- WAN-cloud eXchange (WAN-CX) services directly interconnect enterprise WANs to cloud service providers' data centers. WAN exchange connection points can be provisioned via MPLS, or via connection of existing enterprise access points within carrier hotels or public data centers to cloud provider connection points.
- Private WAN connections to UCaaS providers via an extending MPLS fabric to the provider data center, or via another private connection type.
Federation services often provide additional features, such as application performance management and monitoring, which can give IT better visibility into UCaaS performance. Nemertes' 2016 Cloud, Data Center and SD-WAN Benchmark study found more than half of participating companies were using, planning to use or evaluating WAN-CX services to extend their WAN to cloud service providers.
SD-WAN eases cloud traffic, curbs costs
Another way of supporting UCaaS performance is SD-WAN, with the added benefit of potentially saving money on WAN costs by reducing or eliminating reliance on MPLS. SD-WAN services typically aggregate internet and MPLS bandwidth -- or just internet -- into a virtual WAN and actively monitor performance to ensure outbound traffic takes the ideal path to meet quality needs.
SD-WAN can shift latency-sensitive traffic to MPLS, or to a secondary internet path, if the primary path isn't performing up to speed. Some providers even have a presence at major cloud provider data centers to monitor end-to-end performance and manage the flow of return data flows.
Nemertes found 64% of companies in our recent study are implementing, planning to implement or evaluating SD-WAN, with adopters typically reducing their overall WAN spend.
Enterprises that wish to streamline cloud traffic and implement UCaaS successfully shouldn't ignore the network. Instead, evaluate emerging technologies, such as WAN-CX and SD-WAN, to guarantee the performance of UCaaS -- and potentially save you money.
WAN-cloud eXchange extends the private WAN to the cloud
Emerging cloud exchanges designed for WAN connections to public clouds
Searching for the right type of WAN connection