In this blog, we turn the spotlight onto one of IRIS’ founders, Alan Kemp, to pick his brain about the future of WAN networks, WAN optimization and how the cloud is changing networking as we know it. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in and talk WAN optimization with our resident expert.
A bit about Alan Kemp
One of the founding members of IRIS, Alan has been actively involved in the networking and ISP industries for the past 18 years. He started off as a level 1 network engineer, where he helped South Africa’s first dial-up users experience the wonders of the internet. After moving through the ranks of building network environments piece by piece, Alan now works as one of the directors at IRIS, where he uses his knowledge of the common problems all ISPs face to ensure the best network performance possible. He has significant experience managing large-scale WAN environments.
Q: What do you consider the main trends in WAN today, and how will they impact the future of networking?
A: As the private cloud becomes more popular and an increasing number of businesses move their networking infrastructure off-premises, it follows that their dependence on WAN and internet links will become much greater – in fact, for many organisations today, WAN and internet are one and the same. But as more important services move into the cloud, the demands for uptime, performance and reliability will become increasingly crucial to the way businesses function. This will result in the need for more redundancy, more vigilant monitoring of WAN links and more responsibly-provisioned bandwidth.
Q: Which metrics will become the most important for WANs of the future?
A: Broadly speaking, the metrics that are important for WAN optimization today will stay the same. However, customer expectations and our world’s ever-increasing dependence on constant broadband connectivity means managing these metrics will take on a whole new dimension of importance. Metrics like latency, packet loss, jitter and drop rates on Quality of Service (QoS) classes will continue to be the most integral to managing network services, but as the breadth of data that we consume on a daily basis increases, services that simplify the management of traffic on a particular circuit will come to be the future network engineer’s best friend.
Q: Speaking of customer expectations, what do you foresee as the biggest challenges going forward, and how should these issues be tackled?
A: As the internet becomes more media-rich, and especially with bandwidth-intensive services like ShowMax, Netflix and Spotify replacing their traditional offline alternatives, customers are expecting more and more bandwidth for their buck. Fair enough – everyone wants more bandwidth, but smart organisations should go about providing this in the most sustainable way they possibly can.
It’s worth pointing out that the problems we’re facing now aren’t much different from those of 15 years ago – the technology is just vastly improved. However, as the internet continues to change the way we do business, there’s an increasing expectation for homes to have access to business pipes, and Fibre to the Home (FTTH) is turning this expectation into a reality. The problem comes in, though, when there isn’t enough bandwidth available to service the demands of the country. The Seacom fibre cables are pretty robust, but only time will tell how they perform with more South African homes opting for fibre connectivity.
Q: How do you see the relationship between cloud and WAN in the future? Will they become one and the same?
A: WAN and cloud certainly won’t become the same thing, but the idea of the cloud as something that is outside your control will start to disappear. The way I see it, networks of the future will rely more on ‘extending their LAN into the cloud’, through decentralising infrastructure to other data centres. It will definitely bridge the gap between LAN and WAN, though – essentially, extending your local network into the cloud will mean that your edge isn’t the WAN anymore, it could be any data centre in the world.
Q: Lastly, how do you see IRIS fitting in with the future of WAN, and what is unique about it that makes it perfect for managing large-scale WANs?
When we first conceptualized IRIS, we envisioned an NMS that could scale to environments of any size without compromising on the quality of its reports, but also without placing too much strain on the network. We’ve stuck to that ideology throughout our careers, and the fact that we are all born and bred WAN engineers means we have a solid understanding of what is involved in managing a large-scale environment. The fundamental structure of IRIS makes it capable of monitoring thousands of devices without breaking a sweat. IRIS also monitors all standard SLA stats out-of-the-box through performance tests and real-time reports. And to top it off, IRIS is provided as a network service, making it a perfect solution for decentralized, large-scale network environments.
To find out more about IRIS’ unique take on scalable network monitoring and what makes it perfect for achieving WAN optimization, check out our free eBook on which WAN metrics to consider for the best network reporting possible.