After years of design stability, we will look into how businesses should adapt to an IT infrastructure that is continuously changing.

Corporate-wide area networks (WANs) used to be so predictable. Users sat at their desks—servers at company data centers, stored information, and software applications. And WAN design was a straightforward process of connecting offices to network hubs. This underlying architecture served companies well for decades.

Today, growth in cloud and mobile usage is forcing information technology (IT) professionals to rethink network design. Experts expect Public cloud infrastructure to grow by 17% in 2020 to total $266.4 billion, up from $227.8 billion in 2019, according to Gartner. Meanwhile, the enterprise mobility market should double from 2016 to 2021. This rapid growth presents a challenge for network architects.

Traditional WANs cannot handle this type of expansion. Services like Multiprotocol Label Switch (MPLS) excel at providing fixed connections from edge sites to hubs. But MPLS isn’t well-suited to changing traffic patterns. Route adjustments are costly, and provisioning intervals can take months.

A migration to the cloud would require a fundamental shift in network design. We have listed five recommendations for building an enterprise WAN that is flexible, easy to deploy and manage, and supports the high speed of digital change.

cloud ready enterprise WAN

5 Steps to Build a Cloud-Ready Enterprise WAN

1. Build Regional Aggregation Nodes in Carrier-Neutral Data Centers

The market is catching on that these sites serve as more than just interconnection hubs for networks and cloud providers. Colocation centers are ideal locations for companies to aggregate local traffic into regional hubs. The benefits are cost savings, performance, and flexibility. With so many carriers to choose from, there’s more competition.

In one report, Forrester Research estimated 60% to 70% cloud connectivity and network traffic cost reduction when buying services at Equinix, one of the largest colocation companies. There’s also faster provisioning and greater flexibility to change networks if needed.

2. Optimize the Core Network

Once aggregation sites are selected, they need to be connected. Many factors should weigh into this design, including estimated bandwidth requirements, traffic flows, and growth. It’s particularly important to consider the performance demands of real-time applications.

For example, voice and video aren’t well-suited to packet-switched networks such as MPLS and Internet, where variable paths can inject jitter and impairments. Thus, networks carrying large volumes of VoIP and video conferencing may be better suited to private leased capacity or fixed-route low-latency networks such as Apcela. The advantage of the carrier-neutral model is that there will be a wide range of choices available to ensure the best solution.

3. Setup Direct Connections to Cloud Platforms

As companies migrate more data to the cloud, the Internet’s “best-effort” service level becomes less suitable. Direct connections to cloud providers offer higher speed, reliability, and security. Many cloud platforms, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google, provide direct access in the same carrier-neutral data centers described in step One.

There is a caveat: It’s essential to know where information is stored in the cloud. If hundreds of miles separate the cloud provider’s servers from their direct connect location, it’s better to route traffic over the core network to an Internet gateway that’s in closer proximity.

4. Implement SD-WAN to Improve Agility, Performance, and Cost

Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) is a disruptive technology for telecom. It is the glue that binds the architecture into a simple, more flexible network that evolves and is entirely “cloud-ready.” With an intuitive graphical interface, SD-WAN administrators can adjust network parameters for individual applications with only a few clicks. This setup means performance across a network can be fine-tuned in minutes, with no command-line interface entries required.

Thanks to automated provisioning and a range of connection options that include LTE and the Internet, new sites can be added to the network in mere days. Route optimization and application-level controls are especially useful as new cloud projects emerge and demand on the network change.

5. Distribute Security and Internet Gateways

The percentage of corporate traffic destined for the Internet is growing significantly due to the adoption of cloud services. Many corporate WANs manage Internet traffic today by funneling traffic through a small number of secure firewalls located in company data centers. This “hairpinning” often degrades internet performance for users who are not in the corporate data center.

Some organizations instead choose to deploy firewalls at edge sites to improve Internet performance, but at considerable expense in hardware, software, and security management. The more efficient solution is to deploy regional Internet security gateways inside aggregation nodes. This places secure Internet connectivity at the core of the corporate WAN, and adjacent to the regional hubs of the Internet itself. It results in lowered costs and improved performance.

Save Money with a Cloud-Ready Enterprise WAN

The shortest path between two points is a straight line. And the shorter we can make the line between users and information, the quicker and better their network performance will be.

By following these five steps, your cloud-ready WAN will become an asset, not an obstacle. Let us help you find out more today.