Why the Modern WAN Needs to Look More Like a CDN

Leveraging CDN Principles Supercharges your WAN Performance

In the world where the CIOs have a ‘Cloud First / SaaS First’ manifesto, new applications and services will be prioritized for cloud deployment; existing on-prem applications will be candidates for migration to SaaS or Cloud-hosted alternatives, and cost savings will be a key driver. Where scalability and speed to deliver is in constant demand, the job of an enterprise infrastructure team is to deliver the (increasingly Cloud hosted) applications to their intended end-users in the most performant, reliable, and secure manner.

Gartner predicts that:

  • By 2028 70% of tech workloads will be running in a cloud environment, up from just 25% in Q4, 2023 (Gartner London IOCS 2023)1
  • In 2024, worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is forecasted to total $679 billion and projected to exceed $1 trillion in 2027. 2

While this shift in WAN landscape is a relatively new concept for enterprises, CDNs have fulfilled similar requirements for SaaS companies and content & media creators for close to two decades. For enterprise WAN, this shift in center-of-gravity of applications away from the legacy data centers and towards the cloud and edge demands a scalable and on-demand network infrastructure that can handle extensive data transfers and real-time communication seamlessly and securely. Traditional WAN solutions often fall short in providing the necessary agility and bandwidth efficiency required by modern applications.

Top 10 ways CDNs are superior to traditional WANs:

  1. CDNs focus on application architecture and application flows
  2. Map the geographies of the applications and end users
  3. Serve the content leveraging global high-speed networks
  4. Leverage SDN for agile/dynamic routing to meet real-time demands
  5. Leverage edge caching in multiple locations
  6. Use intelligent DNS design for failover and load-balancing
  7. Leverage TCP optimization options/technologies
  8. Leverage Anycast routing to provide optimized routing and n-level of fault tolerance
  9. Embed security in transport networks
  10. Provide near real-time scalability and observability

Out of these 10, the ones that matter the most for a CDN-like NextGen WAN are:

1.Leveraging Global Middle Mile Networks

A global middle mile network is the high-speed fiber optic infrastructure that connects local and regional networks to the larger internet or private backbone, enabling data transmission across long distances and facilitating global connectivity. It serves as the crucial link between the “last mile” networks managed by local ISPs and the global private or internet backbone. By implementing a global middle mile solution, enterprises can significantly enhance their network performance through optimized routing that traditional internet service providers (ISPs) cannot offer. This ensures higher reliability and lower latency for critical business applications, regardless of the geographical distances involved.

2. The Role of Software-Defined (SD-WAN)

SDN separates the network control plane and data plane, and in CDN world, SDN is a critical enabler for managing complex global backbones and edge networks. SD-WAN extends the principles of SDN to the WAN and brings an unprecedented level of flexibility and control over WAN traffic. It allows centralized administration, consistent policy enforcement, encryption and dynamic adjustment of routes and protocols to meet real-time demands. SD-WAN enables enterprise to use a combination of transport services, including DIA, Broadband, MPLS, LTE and LEO/GEO. By routing traffic based on the application’s requirements and current network conditions, SD-WAN can significantly reduce costs, increase reliability, and provide a more consistent network experience compared to the traditional WAN. Robust SD-WAN platforms like HPE’s Aruba EdgeConnect and Cisco’s Catalyst SD-WAN platform offer sophisticated mechanisms for integrating public cloud infrastructure as an extension to enterprise WAN, brining enterprise WAN and Cloud Networking management capabilities in a single platform.

3. Optimize Location, Peering, DNS, Routing & TCP

Advanced DNS configurations are crucial for enhancing the speed and reliability of a WAN. Intelligent DNS routing can reduce latency by resolving user requests from the nearest server location.

Anycast routing allows multiple, geographically dispersed ‘front-doors’ to share the same IP address for specific application(s). The network routes user requests to the nearest or best-performing front-door, significantly reducing latency and improving response times by serving users from the closest content node. Incorporating anycast routing also bolsters disaster recovery as traffic can be rerouted to the next available node if one node goes down, ensuring continuous service availability.

Moreover, TCP optimization technologies are essential for enhancing data transmission speeds across long distances. TCP optimizations adjust the rate at which packets are sent and acknowledge receipt, minimizing packet loss and effectively dealing with varying network conditions. Most mature SD-WAN vendors have some TCP optimization capabilities.

Integrating carrier neutral facilities is an additional crucial element in building of CDN like WANs. Carrier neutral facilities provide the freedom to connect with many ISPs and Cloud Service Providers within a single location, enabling redundancy and competitive pricing. This flexibility is crucial for enterprises looking to optimize their network infrastructure based on cost, performance, and resilience without being tied to a single carrier. These facilities become strategic points where an enterprise can implement core network functions and house essential network equipment, leading to improved service quality and lower latency due to the proximity to internet exchange points.

Together, these technologies fortify the enterprise WAN, offering a CDN-like distribution network that is robust, efficient, and capable of meeting the high-performance standards required by modern enterprises.

Conclusion: Leverage CDN Principles to supercharge enterprise WAN performance

As we push the boundaries of what enterprise networks can achieve, the integration of above-mentioned technologies is not just an upgrade; it’s a complete redefinition of network capabilities. This is not about keeping up, it is about leading and setting new standards. Adopting a robust WAN infrastructure modeled after CDNs with advanced network technologies not only prepares an enterprise for the demands of today but will set a foundation that anticipates the needs of tomorrow.

1: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2023-11-20-gartner-it-infrastructure-operations-and-cloud-strategies-conference-2023-london-day-1-highlights

2: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2023-11-29-gartner-says-cloud-will-become-a-business-necessity-by-2028

Author's Bio

Kunal Thakkar

VP, Product and Solutions Engineering Apcela