App performance issues have become a global epidemic.
Start with Spot the Symptoms of Poor App Performance - Part 1 to see the symptoms of poor application performance.
Now let's try to diagnose what's happening here.
This is Not Your Parents' WAN
Given the incredible amount of traffic traversing corporate WANs, it's not surprising that businesses are seeing performance issues. If anything, it's amazing applications work as well as they do. The biggest underlying issue behind most of these problems: just the sheer number of apps themselves. Customer-facing digital experiences. Internal corporate apps that fuel basic business operations. Cloud-hosted apps for everything from sales to HR to marketing. In a landscape being rapidly reshaped by digital transformation, businesses are increasingly defined by the apps they use.
Meanwhile, the WANs serving up those apps have been basically the same for 25 years. It's a recipe for bad experiences, both for customers and employees. If people can't do their job if they can't access reports, if they can't log in to their CRM, if they can't communicate with each other, if they can't open OneDrive without it crashing their productivity suffers. And if you're seeing frequent delays and crashes of your customer-facing apps (inventory systems, point-of-sale systems, digital portals and more) that will most definitely show up in the bottom line.
Cloud Changes Everything
You can point to the rise of cloud as a key factor here. Just as businesses are using more apps — and relying on them more heavily for basic operations — they have less control over them than ever. Cloud makes applications more accessible and easier to manage, but it also means you're relying on Internet connections for more critical business functions. Which raises problems that most WANs were never designed to cope with.
If you've adopted SD-WAN, you likely use expensive, high-performing WAN links like MPLS circuits for some locations and services, while also running more apps over lower-quality, lower-performing Internet connections. So now, your cloud apps are more susceptible to variability. In many cases, they're constantly competing with each other for bandwidth over your WAN. And your network — again, using basically the same technology it used two decades ago — just can't handle it.
You Don't Need a New WAN — You Need a Smarter WAN
More bandwidth won't solve most of these problems. What's needed is more sophisticated app intelligence, so your network can better prioritize apps end-to-end. The problem, of course, is that basic Internet connections don't offer that kind of prioritization. You need some intelligence on top of all your various network links that can control traffic flows in more granular, context-aware ways.
That context is key. It's not enough to just prioritize one app over another; the network also needs to be able to see the volume of traffic that different apps are generating across the network and adjust what it's doing in response. Think of your network and apps like a crowd of people trying to board a plane. You have different tiers of passengers boarding in a specific order, and different lanes each tier uses. But if one day, there are a lot more passengers in one tier than you expected, you need to be able to adjust the size of those lanes in response.
Your network should work the same way. If you have a spike in usage of a higher-priority app, the network should recognize that and dynamically increase the bandwidth it's allocating for that app. The reverse is also true. If the "traffic lane" reserved for high-priority app traffic is underutilized, the network should be able to temporarily allocate those unused resources elsewhere.
This intelligence is a form of "intent-based networking." Under this model, the network no longer just operates under fixed rules, but actively reads and reacts to real-time conditions to optimize those app experiences that are most important to your business.
The App Performance Prescription: Intent-Based Smarter SD-WANs
SD-WAN solutions should be able to help with this problem — they are, after all, the de facto traffic cops for your WAN. Unfortunately, first-generation SD-WANs focused primarily on managing network capacity and costs. If we're going to cure the app performance problem, the next generation of smarter SD-WANs will need to be designed specifically to optimize user experience.
For technology vendors, this isn't necessarily a simple change to make. But it's a critical one. In an app-driven world, "good enough" just isn't good enough anymore.
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