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How SD-WAN closes performance gap for business

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Riverbed Technology sub-Saharan Africa country manager WIMPIE VAN RENSBURG outlines how SD-WAN technology helps improve the performance of enterprise applications.

As an increasing number of organisations migrate to the cloud, the gap between the needs and expectations of the business and IT’s ability to deliver is growing. With apps, data and users scattered across branch offices and other remote locations, IT is struggling to deliver the application performance businesses need to remain productive. In fact, the Riverbed Global Application Performance Survey 2015 shows that while 98 per cent of executives believe that enterprise application performance is critical to achieving optimal business performance, 89 per cent say poor performance of enterprise applications negatively impacts their productivity on a regular basis.

So what is the cause of this performance gap and how can businesses close it? Chances are IT is wrestling with a complex, inflexible WAN – a wide area computer network, to interconnect their diverse application workloads to their distributed workforce. In fact, the WAN is likely the IT infrastructure’s weakest link, and it’s preventing it from meeting the dynamic demands of the modern enterprise.

Business is speeding up, and IT needs to keep pace. Organisations need SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking), and here’s why.

Today’s network challenges

Driven by the rapid globalisation of the business world, the WAN is becoming more and more dispersed every day. Remote workers are scattered across the globe — in branch offices, construction sites and coffee shops, to name just a few — and they all demand flawless network performance to stay productive.

What’s more, end users are depending on an ever-expanding catalogue of applications, some of them cloud based. And if the apps don’t work, neither do your end users. Many of them are even adopting independent apps which are not explicitly approved by the organisation — a phenomenon called “shadow IT”– in order to get work done in a timely manner.

As a result, today’s networks are more unruly than ever. Businesses need a new day in networking, and they need it now. But why?

The trouble with traditional MPLS WANs

Old-school WANs are having a hard time meeting the demands of the modern business. A network based on MPLS links can be expensive but also time-consuming. Traditional MPLS networks rely on operation paradigms that were defined more than 15 years ago at a time were the pace of changes was a matter of months not a matter of days.

The trouble with hybrid WANs

Many organisation are today considering reducing the costs of MPLS based networks using more affordable Internet links to create a hybrid WAN. But in many cases, what you save in costs you sacrifice in security and control.

Moreover, a significant rise in encryption and cloud technologies can cut into network visibility, making it next to impossible to know when and where a performance problem is occurring.

All the while, the pressure is mounting on IT, and the business is expecting you to act at the drop of a hat:

  • They need you to deploy a new app that will totally change your traffic profile (and you need to maintain control), today
  • They need you to provision a new branch office on the other side of the world with the right apps and data, and make sure mission-critical apps are performing flawlessly for all users no matter what, today

The list goes on. But unfortunately, the state of your network has you handcuffed. And this is where SD-WAN comes in.

What SD-WAN can do for businesses

To put it simply, SD-WAN allows businesses to control their network from a single, easy-to-use, intuitive command centre. At its core, SD-WAN enables them to make on-the-fly adjustments to network performance and application delivery, in order to meet the businesses ever-changing needs.

By leveraging software-defined networking (SDN) principles, designed to make networks more flexible and agile, SD-WAN enables organisations to direct traffic and deploy network services across a WAN from a centralised location — without any mess or hassle. Instead of the old router-based model, which required IT managers to make intensive CLI-based code changes to routers, SD-WAN allows network services and policies to be assigned to different locations, users, and even apps — all with just a few clicks.

What’s more, an app-centric SD-WAN will automatically identify the applications in the organisation’s network and group them into logical categories based on business criticality, and even apply network-service policies to those categories based on built-in best practices.

These benefits offer IT a broad range of possibilities. Organisations can automatically route voice traffic to their highest-quality network paths. They can quickly segregate employee traffic from that of partners and customers. They can send recreational Internet traffic through the most rigorous firewalls. And more. And IT can do it all simply and centrally, without breaking a sweat.

All in all, SD-WAN makes networks more flexible and agile than ever, which, in turn, allows you to meet business needs efficiently and effectively.

* These issues will be explored at the Riberbed Force for Business event in Joihannesburg on 20 April. 

* For more information, and to register to attend the event, click here.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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