The trend for software-as-a-service applications is increasing enterprise use of the internet. The big challenge for IT departments is how to ensure high and consistent levels of end-user experience, while ensuring security.
In the move to cloud, some users are experiencing poor SaaS performance in key applications such as SAP, Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint. This is happening because most SaaS data centers are centralized, whereas most enterprises have regional data centers. The increased distance to the end-users – particularly when using the internet – can significantly affect performance.
To address these issues, Orange Business Services held a webinar in association with Riverbed. It was presented by Christian Pelle, Head of Connectivity and Cyberdefense at Orange Business Services, and Andrew Harrison, Director, Advanced Business Solutions, Riverbed. You can listen in full to the webinar here.
In this blog we look at how the hybrid network combines the internet and corporate networks to deliver the very best performance for end users at the best possible price. We have summarized the seven steps to deliver high levels of performance for cloud applications for all users below:
1. Baseline your environment
Understand your current environment before moving forward, by drawing up a baseline of applications and security. The move to cloud should not be seen as a single event. It is a fluid process that moves workloads around as required. The new design should be able to be re-arranged, re-directed and optimized continually as users require adjustments.
2. Define security requirements
Look at your network design and global connectivity requirements before defining security upfront. End-user experience and security are the two key factors in getting the design right and working according to your needs.
3. Improve SaaS end-user performance
Users need to be able to enjoy comparable levels of SaaS where ever they are. For example, European customers of Microsoft Office365, will have their content centralized in a Microsoft data center in Ireland. Access to the data center is affordable and efficient if users have good connectivity and are based in Europe. But what about employees based in Chile 12,000km away? How can they enjoy the same level of performance?
The network path to the data center is crucial in helping ensure a high level of performance. Normal “best-effort” internet can’t ensure consistent levels of performance across multiple sites worldwide. There are two possible solutions: first is to use the optimized MPLS network as much as possible, via Business VPN Galerie, which offers direct interconnection from MPLS into many cloud providers’ data centers. Second is to use an optimized internet service; Orange offers a business-class internet service with regional gateways that bring internet traffic closer to the final destination. It also improves performance over the internet using Akamai’s overlay network, which finds the fastest route to the data center.
4. “Right-size” the network connection
Enterprises need to have the flexibility at each site to send traffic to the internet or over the MPLS network based on their business rules. That means dynamically load balancing between the MPLS and the internet. With an Orange MPLS connection, you can break Internet traffic out over the Orange gateway. However, you don’t pay MPLS rate for all the traffic, because Internet and MPLS traffic and differentiated through a sixth class of service. We deploy a device locally on premise which monitors applications used from that location. It helps decide if MPLS or internet accelerated through Akamai is the best route and compliant with application policies.
5. Optimize SaaS traffic
Riverbed’s Steelhead SaaS has been designed to improve performance for SaaS and reduce the impact of distance, latency and bandwidth. A Steelhead WAN optimization appliance is put in the customer branch and a virtual device is located close to the SaaS provider’s data center where performance data is collected. The appliance then uses the Akamai network to find the best route for the traffic.
Steelhead SaaS delivers a set of benefits as a whole including a reduced infrastructure requirement at branch and lower network costs. By compress the network bandwidth, it can reduce bandwidth costs over the MPLS and internet. Performance improvements can be significant. It can provide up to five times faster speeds for downloads and up to 98% reduction in bandwidth for Office 365. For SMB file access customers are reporting speeds of up to 40 times faster.
6. Next steps: SDN and SD-WAN
The next step for optimization is SD-WAN and SDN and deploying it as software instead of hardware. New orchestration tools mean that new functions or upgrades can be delivered instantly via a mouse click. This is at the core of the new customer portal, dubbed ‘Easy Go Networks’, which will go live in November. As part of this we are deploying six next-generation SDN PoPs across Europe, the US and APAC.
Further into the future, we are developing a universal CPE capability, that can host different functions in a virtualized model. Operational by 2018, the universal CPE will be a scalable plug-and-play device activated through the Easy Go portal. Moving to this virtualized approach will offer significant savings in terms of both licensing and operational investment. This can be as much as 50% depending on how much is virtualized and how much is on premise.
After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.