Considering all the data being generated, the Internet is generally considered as adequate and fast enough. Users equate lots of bandwidth to performance and speed. However, yesterday’s Internet was designed to be resilient to points of failure, not to be a high-performance network. Today’s dynamic web content demands a new approach around dynamic and advanced internet performance.
Why Dynamic Internet Performance is Needed Today
Most web applications, especially those delivered by SaaS (News - Alert) providers, provide value through dynamic, personalized interactions and bidirectional content flows. This brand of content cannot be cached using current technologies, including Content Delivery Networks (CDN), and instead requires new approaches around optimizing end-to-end performance between the user, the Internet backbone, and origin servers. Common complex web and dynamic SaaS applications susceptible to poor Internet performance affecting the user experience include:
Content Collaboration – Enterprise file sharing and synchronization, including applications that enable content sharing for regulated industries;
Dynamic and Interactive Applications – Web and mobile applications that create highly personalized web pages on demand and as needed; and
Secure and Regulated Content – Web and mobile applications where security or regulatory requirements prevent the use of edge caching.
The consequences of poor dynamic Internet performance include high user dissatisfaction, often resulting in high customer turnover; inability or prohibitively high cost of entering regions and markets where Internet performance is poor; and increased infrastructure, headcount, and operational cost and complexity as web and SaaS applications are rolled out in regional data centers or points of presence (PoPs).
The New Approach of Internet Overlay Networks
With this critical need identified, new approaches are emerging to better equip existing infrastructure for dynamic web content and applications today and tomorrow – including Internet overlay networks. An Internet overlay network is designed to create routing “shortcuts” to provide more direct and efficient routing between hosts, resulting in overall better performance. Internet overlay networks can be delivered in a number of flavors, including:
- Private Network Overlay – A private network has primary reliance on private circuits and connections to create more efficient Internet routing. SaaS and web applications connect to the private network overlay at regional PoPs, with the traffic traversing across the shared private network and egressing at the appropriate PoP to connect to the destination and vice versa.
- VPN Overlay – A VPN network overlay is similar to a private network overlay, but uses the public Internet with point-to-point VPN connections to create the overlay. Similar to a private network overlay, a VPN network overlay has PoPs where traffic will need to ingress and egress the network.
- Cloud Network Overlay – A cloud network overlay is similar to a VPN overlay in that it uses the public Internet as its primary transport but, in this case, traffic rides on the networks of leading cloud providers. As with private and VPN overlay networks, traffic must ingress and egress the cloud network overlay.
- MPLS Hybrid Private Network Overlay – Many early Internet overlay networks were built using private networks, namely MPLS. Building MPLS private networks is expensive, time consuming and has long lead times to deploy. To provide more efficient service to new regions, expensive and time-consuming PoPs must be rolled out. Some MPLS private network overlays augment the private networks with point-to-point VPN links to quickly and more cost effectively introduce new PoPs.
Internet Overlay Network Considerations
In evaluating this new approach of Internet overlay networks, there are things to consider for each unique network. One size does not fit all. Key considerations include:
- Shared versus dedicated connections – Is traffic secured and isolated or is it sharing links and connections with the traffic of other organizations?
- Scaling – Are the links and connections susceptible to congestion or are the links dynamically scalable as load demands?
- Routing efficiency – Will the overlay network avoid Internet congestion? For example, in a VPN overlay, is the network detecting and routing around congested networks, paths, or providers?
Advanced Internet Overlay Networks
In addition to the considerations above, organizations must understand that not all Internet overlay offerings are created equal. Today’s more advanced Internet overlay networks are Artificial Intelligence driven, are able to work on the world’s leading cloud providers, and are supported with solid PoP backbones across the globe.
When evaluating which Internet overlay network is best for your organization, IT leaders should consider if some of the more advanced features available are beneficial, including:
- “Cloud scale” to networking – Today’s more advance approaches enable horizontal scale in Internet connectivity similar to how Amazon enables scale for compute and storage. These networks dynamically scale up and down as utilization increases and decreases. When private circuit and MPLS-based networks become congested, advanced Internet overlay networks continue to operate without issue.
- Leveraging Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence – Most VPN overlays use two sensors – the VPN endpoints at the “last mile” to evaluate link performance at the point of VPN encryption and at the point of VPN decryption. Advanced Internet overlay networks provide visibility to the previously opaque “middle mile,” the networks that Internet traffic transits on its way to its destination. With this raw data, advanced solutions use machine learning and AI-powered routing to determine the best performing, least congested, and most reliable path to use.
- Advanced security and privacy – Some Internet overlays, like CDNs, require companies to share SSL certificates and keys to decrypt traffic in order to use their network and attempt to provide performance enhancements. Today’s advanced Internet overlay networks can optimize performance without needing to decrypt the traffic, maintaining privacy and security of data.
- Support for diverse traffic types – Legacy Internet overlay networks, like CDNs, are designed to provide performance improvements for limited application and traffic types, typically static or limited dynamic content. Most CDNs were designed and architected before public cloud networking was mainstream. This worked fine when the web and applications were not dynamic, but today’s advanced approaches are built on the leading public cloud networks. They are designed to support a broad range of application and traffic types and provide significant performance improvements for SaaS and web applications with dynamic content and bidirectional traffic flows.
Organizations should consider the changing dynamics of their web traffic and applications, and how poor Internet performance may impact consistently great global customer experiences. New approaches are available today providing advanced Internet overlay network throughput and content delivery to keep web traffic and applications performing as they were designed.
Edited by Erik Linask