Cisco made aggressive moves in software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) and analytics recently with the acquisitions of Viptela as well as the advanced analytics team from Saggezza. Given the amount of fanfare around these one-two punch announcements, it appears that the rest of the IT world is catching up to what SDxCentral readers figured out a long time ago — SD-WAN is here to stay. And the network knows all. When you apply analytics to network data on an SD-WAN, it offers insights on applications, users, devices, business processes, and almost everything IT needs to know to ensure employee productivity flows and the user experience is always superior.
As Cisco said in its blog announcing its move to acquire Saggezza assets, “As applications are moving to the cloud and billions of things are connecting to the network, our customers need a way to see and manage these increasingly complex networks.”
As enterprises upgrade their networks to handle more data intensive workloads and manage the complexities of cloud applications through an SD-WAN, they’re discovering that a centralized platform offers deeper insights into the network. These insights introduce a level of intelligence that uncovers hidden issues such as shadow IT and other data anomalies that often go unnoticed. It can also reduce or eliminate false positives by applying contextual relevance and situational awareness to the users and devices on the network.
For example, one of the nation’s top 10 banks deployed an SD-WAN to support its growth, phase out an aging WAN, and meet the demands for an increasingly mobile customer base. As the network continued to get more complex, the bank’s need for deeper analytics became more apparent. While the bank had network management tools in place to monitor and spot issues, they lacked visibility across the entire network, which made them reactive to network issues.
Their SD-WAN solution made it easier to get visibility across the entire network, including site-to-site traffic analysis. Then, by applying analytics to their network data, the bank was able to predict where and when additional network resources were needed to cover spikes in usage. This enables the bank’s network engineers to predict issues based on trends and take action before employees or customers experience slow response times or outages. It sounds simple until you realize the sheer volume of transactions, devices, and applications of hundreds of thousands of users on the network — not to mention the security demands.
Where and When to Apply Analytics to SD-WAN
Analytics aren’t currently required for an SD-WAN strategy to be successful. However, analytics can help maximize investments in network technology. A lot of it comes down to knowing where and when to apply analytics to generate the insights that optimize end user experiences. Here are some areas where it’s proven most beneficial.
In the planning process, analytics can help identify unsanctioned applications and users, and establish network utilization baselines for capacity planning.
During deployment, applying analytics to real-time network visualizations assures services won’t be compromised in the event of brownouts or abnormal events.
As part of ongoing management, use analytics for daily insights into users, application and network performance, and to spot anomalies so you can reduce meant time to repair (MTTR).
Analytics can also be applied to monitor bandwidth usage and visualize path control to manage performance and mitigate problems before they’re visible to users. Finally, in multivendor environments, analytics help visualize network topology, regardless of the underlying hardware devices and can predict performance demands and resolve performance issues with a few clicks of a mouse.
When it comes to SD-WAN environments, what you want to avoid is too much data and not enough analysis. This can happen when you’re monitoring the network in real-time. While continuous monitoring might be necessary, be judicious in the data that’s extracted for analysis so you can focus on spotting trends and outliers.
As more businesses adopt SD-WAN, applying analytics for a deeper understanding of what’s on the network is critical to its performance as well as the performance of the users on it.