Window on WANs

May 5 2009   5:46PM GMT

Time is now to put more WOW into your WAN

Tim Scannell Profile: TScannell

It is a bit ironic that as attendees at the FutureNet conference in Boston this week dined on Mexican fare as part of Cinco de Mayo festivities, just outside and within reach were gallons of hand sanitizer liquid. 

There were even small bottles of the stuff positioned at the registration desk, as people lined up to pick up their badges and dive into sessions that explored everything from building cost effective WANs to MPLS backhaul networks.  

The H1N1 swine flu was not officially on the agenda here as network engineers and technical specialists gathered to discuss the latest trends and developments in SIP trunking, telecom convergence and 4G mobile.  Nothing to sneeze at when it comes to keeping the corporate network up to snuff and preparing for such things as convergence, increasing numbers of teleworkers  and even the spread of green IT across distributed networks.

A lot of the first-day discussions focused on the evolution of WAN architectures, especially as companies explore emerging next generation Ethernet technologies, MPLS and VPLS alternatives.  Most enterprise architectures have extended way beyond the typical LAN, said Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar in his presentation.  Companies do it because they have to, he noted, because if they do not the result can be a loss of customers, potential business and eventually market share. 

“If they can’t get a connection,  they’ll go elsewhere and that translates into tangible revenue,” Lazar noted.  So, companies are treating networks and network improvements as a strategic asset rather than as a commodity.

Lazar pointed to a number of ‘must do now’ actions for companies looking to keep pace with network developments and the move to more robust technologies.  Included among these are:

          MPLS, with about 76% of the companies surveyed by Nemertes now using and up to 90% using or at least evaluating the technology.  Most don’t see it as a replacement for traditional WANs, but are integrating it into their current arc architectures.  The benefits include up to a 40%, depending on the region of the world where the technology is deployed; the ability to run multiple traffic types over the same network; the elimination of the standard ‘hub and spoke’ design of most networks; and an improved capability to manage network capacities.


          Next-generation Ethernet and VPLS, with about 62% of the companies surveyed planning or using Ethernet services today.  The benefits of going this route include: A lower cost per megabyte versus MPLS; greater bandwidth and flexibility; and better customer satisfaction as compared with MPLS (79% of users extremely satisfied with Ethernet as compared with compared with 67% of MPLS users).


Talking with current Ethernet users, Nemertes researchers found that 27% selected the technology because of its flexibility, 13% because of bandwidth, and 60% for its cost over MPLS.


SIP Trunking and WAN optimization were two other technologies that should be on every  network planners agenda, said Lazar, although many companies may not consider such things until 36 months into a network’s launch and operation.

What are some things network types should be considering as they work to build stronger WANs?


1. Look at all new and emerging technologies, such as MPLS, VPLS, Metro Ethernet,

    Optical, and 3G/4G wireless;

2. Select a carrier with a vision (mobility integration, hosted collaborative apps,

    professional services, managed services, management portals, policy-based

    prioritization and so on);

3. Negotiates stronger SLAs, with an eye toward MTTR, Uptime, reducing or eliminating

    packet loss and application-specific delays;

4. Follow a structured procurement model.

5. Leverage the use of wireless as part of your network structure, including emerging

    3G/4G technologies.


Wireless is particularly important as enterprise users shift from ‘special purpose’ applications (sales, field force, etc.) to general business applications, said Lazar.

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