Protecting Performance and Increasing Visibility for Business-Critical Applications in the Net Neutrality Era

For many years, quality of service (QoS) has been an important tool in the network manager’s arsenal to ensure predictability and optimal performance of critical applications. The use of public cloud services is driving business needs where the Internet is becoming the key WAN connectivity for the modern enterprises. With the FCC’s Title II reclassification of the Internet, it is no longer legal to block, throttle or prioritize traffic over the Internet. I was starting to wonder if this ruling would impact enterprises’ plan to migrate to the Internet. QoS was particularly critical for VoIP and video traffic where delay or packet loss directly translates to bad quality. Without QoS, how would enterprises protect critical applications today?

Here’s my view. These new Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) technologies will compensate for the lack of QoS.

1. WAN virtualization – using multiple Internet links

The Internet is fast, cheap and abundantly available. Why not use multiple links and treat them as a single “pipe” to compensate for availability and performance. Imagine if you can proactively monitor the condition of each one of the Internet link for loss, jitter, latency and congestion. Using this information, you make real-time traffic engineering decisions to route the traffic based on the requirement of the application and the current condition of the link. This is a congestion avoidance mechanism in order to compensate the lack of QoS over the Internet.

2. Forward Error Correction

The Internet is lossy in nature. Interesting report by VeloCloud reveals that 25 percent of the time during business hours, the Internet does not deliver enterprise-quality real-time traffic on average. To compensate for the unreliable nature of the Internet, VeloCloud uses Forward Error Correction as a way of adding redundancy by sending duplicate packets to different paths so that in the event a packet is dropped by one of the Internet links, another packet arrives on the other Internet link so the error can be corrected. The company claims that this technique can turn the Internet into a reliable network 99 percent of the time.

3. Prioritize traffic inside the enterprise before sending to the Internet

If your Internet provider is able to meet the throughput requirement as part of the SLA agreement, you should prioritize the traffic as QoS is still an effective mechanism to protect your critical applications.

Net Neutrality should not have any impact on your migration plan to the Internet as the new enterprise WAN. While it is great that the emergence of SD-WAN solves the Internet’s problem of availability and predictability, many things can go wrong in this application delivery chain. Do you have any visibility on the Internet? Think about this, packet loss does not necessarily translate to bad user experience anymore? The only safe measure is to continuously monitor the end-user experience. If you are not monitoring the end-user experience today, you should consider it as you start to deploy this type of new technologies with added complexity.

by Ulrica de Fort-Menares is the vice president of product strategy at LiveAction.

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