Hybrid networks promise to manage booming enterprise traffic

Network traffic growth continues at an unrelenting rate, affecting both consumer and business. Enterprises need a new approach to networks that allows them to manage the increase in traffic and Internet use efficiently.

In its annual overview of network traffic, Cisco predicts that annual global IP traffic will surpass the zettabyte (1000 exabytes) threshold in 2016, and the two zettabyte threshold in 2019. Global IP traffic will reach 1.1 zettabytes per year or 88.4 exabytes (one billion gigabytes) per month in 2016. By 2019, global IP traffic will pass a new milestone figure of 2.0 zettabytes per year, or 168.0 exabytes per month.

This growth is accelerated by high-bandwidth connections. Cisco predicts that broadband speeds will double by 2019. It says that by 2019, global fixed broadband speeds will reach 43 Mbps, up from 20 Mbps in 2014.

Enterprises are seeing this growth at first hand. They are experiencing a huge increase in traffic on their networks, along with a shift to the Internet as a destination. Business users are using the internet to collaborate and access computing resources, ranging from cloud applications to video communications. The Cisco survey points out that business internet traffic will increase faster rate than IP WAN, which will grow at a CAGR of 23 percent, compared with a CAGR of 20 percent for fixed business Internet and 51 percent for mobile business Internet.

The increasing importance of network connectivity also means that resilience is no longer just an issue for large sites and data centers – it is something that is required for all users, wherever they are located. In addition, companies are looking for lower cost transport via internet offload, but this does open up security and performance management issues.

Moving forward

How can enterprises take advantage of the Internet and cloud services, without seeing bandwidth requirements and costs spiral out of control? First they need to think about their network from a business need perspective. What do they want from their network, what do they most need it to do for them to be effective? What traffic should travel over the Internet and what via the IP-VPN?

The new enterprise network needs to combine the best of the IP-VPN and Internet. This hybrid network needs to be able dynamically prioritize and route traffic based on importance, location, device and user, and be capable of connecting to and interacting with multiple public cloud service providers, securely.

The Internet’s evolution

The traditional enterprise network was primarily designed to provide access to consolidated applications in enterprise data centers. But the Internet is taking up more and more capacity on the network. Already Orange Business customers report that 40% of traffic on their WAN is now destined for the internet and that WAN traffic in total is growing 21% year on year.

Internet traffic is typically routed over the enterprise IP VPN infrastructure until it is broken out to the Internet in regional gateways. Unlike locally-procured Internet services, this approach allows the enterprise to enforce central control and security. However, it can come at the price of performance. Latency, in particular, is an issue if the distance between end-user and Internet destination is too far.

To solve this, enterprises should look to increase the number of Internet breakout points. This helps reduce overall traffic load on the VPN, reduces latency by breaking out closer to the destination and keeps the potential attack vectors to a minimum. This is the approach Orange Business has taken in its Business VPN Internet solution, which incorporates 15 separate gateways.

Dynamically offloading traffic

The internet can also play a role in enterprise networks by offloading traffic from the IP-VPN if the network is congested. This could include traffic such as batch transfers and other high-bandwidth low-priority traffic.

The choice in what traffic to offload in this situation is a function of network governance and should be made dynamically based on the network congestion. Application optimization is the key here, because it gives you the granularity, visibility and control over all your applications. This is especially important for branch offices, which typically do not have high-bandwidth links.

Content delivery networks also support hybrid networks by prioritizing and securing Internet traffic based on importance, location, device and user. Market research company Informa forecasts the CDN market will be worth US$6.9 billion in 2017, having experienced a compound annual growth rate of 14% in the period 2012-2017.

Shoring up security

Any new approach to the enterprise network must have security at its epicentre. It must be able to implement and enforce a consistent security policy wherever the user is located, on any device and using any network.

In addition IT departments will need the power to dynamically adapt security settings depending on the business risk that the user poses to data. So, for example, a user would have different levels of security depending on their role in the organization, the data they want to access, and the security of the device and network they are using.

This granular security and access management also needs to extend to the cloud, so that users have the same protection irrespective of whether the resource they are accessing is located in the cloud or in the enterprise data center.

Ultimately the hybrid network can help enterprises take advantage of the Internet, while still keeping control of their network infrastructure, prioritizing business critical traffic and staying secure.

Find out more about the Orange Business hybrid network approach in this white paper and infographic.