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Tomorrow’s Network Today: Announcing ThousandEyes WAN Insights

By Mike Hicks
| | 8 min read


Announcing ThousandEyes WAN Insights, our newest innovation for providing network forecasts and SD-WAN recommendations to optimize user experience across enterprise sites.

The Network Is Core to Digital Transformation Success

The Internet is at the heart of the modern enterprise. Digital transformation efforts have resulted in a massive shift toward cloud services, SaaS applications, and Internet-enabled environments, such as Software-defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WANs). These services, which undoubtedly drive the business, exist in a highly dynamic and heterogeneous landscape, and they rely on unpredictable Internet-centric environments that enterprises do not own or directly control for delivery. This can create significant visibility blind spots that traditional monitoring tools simply cannot address, and it makes troubleshooting network performance and assuring user experience much more challenging and time-consuming than it once was. 

At the same time, rising expectations and performance demands from users have meant that network operators who should be focused on optimizing for future success are, instead, struggling to keep operations sustained from day to day. In order to meet the changing demands of the enterprise, a scalable approach is needed; an approach that empowers network operators to proactively optimize network conditions before user experience is impacted. This will allow network teams to have the time and space they need to innovate and build toward the future. 

ThousandEyes has long been enabling enterprises to shine a light on their digital experiences across the Internet, cloud, and business-critical SaaS apps—delivering the cross-layer visibility needed to gain insight into performance and quickly troubleshoot issues.

Today, we’re announcing our newest innovation, ThousandEyes WAN Insights, which leverages aspects of Cisco's Predictive Networks development work. By forecasting network conditions and providing recommendations to optimize SD-WAN performance, ThousandEyes WAN Insights empowers network operators to proactively improve application experience for end users and drive the organizational productivity, resilience, and agility required in a fast-paced world. Initially, ThousandEyes WAN Insights will be available for Cisco SD-WAN customers.

In this blog, we’ll explain how ThousandEyes WAN Insights works and how enterprises can take advantage of its predictive capabilities within their SD-WAN networks.

Opportunities and Challenges of the Modern WAN

The advent of SD-WAN made it simple to manage multiple WAN networks with an application policy that is structured to choose the best available path for a set of applications. A connection between two enterprise sites typically comprises multiple paths between the routers, as shown in Figure 1. These paths represent different dedicated circuits, for example, a provider fiber or a dedicated MPLS circuit. The policy will then determine which circuit the traffic should utilize. For example, on one site, you might have voice traffic routed over one circuit, while all other traffic goes over another circuit. 

Figure 1. A path represents different dedicated circuits.

Crafting the right policy to match expectations can get complex, fast. With more sites, more apps, and more networks, the volume of path decisions network operators need to make increases exponentially. Moreover, variances in the network conditions can make the feedback noisy and can lead to a high number of automated and manual reactions—putting user experience at risk. And with little to no validation of policy efficacy, the resulting policy activation can be ineffective. 

While reactive policy changes based on real-time polling and feedback can be beneficial for mitigating issues in the short term, operating in a reactive mode doesn’t solve your need to align policies to the business and users' requirements and expectations. Today’s network operators need a longer-term preventative solution that can scale alongside growing business demands. 

Moving From Reactive to Preventative With ThousandEyes WAN Insights

Once enabled, ThousandEyes WAN Insights applies statistical models to Cisco vAnalytics path metrics to provide network forecasts and SD-WAN policy recommendations for optimizing user experience across enterprise sites. It does this by continuously observing the behavior of each network path. As soon as historical data is available (approx. 24 hours at a minimum), ThousandEyes WAN Insights starts to analyze performance across all SD-WAN network sites to identify quality issues for multiple application categories, such as Office 365 and collaboration voice-enabled services, such as Webex® by Cisco.

Figure 2. ThousandEyes WAN Insights high-level architecture.

ThousandEyes WAN Insights follows the SD-WAN configuration for sites, edge routers, and interfaces, continuously measuring and assessing the quality at a path level. If an issue exists at a particular site, and it is likely to continue in the near future, WAN Insights recommends an alternate path, at a circuit level, to route that site’s outgoing traffic. These recommendations are given for each site and application category, using quality estimates that reflect the requirements of each application category.

Figure 3. Forecasting assurance of application experience.

When Users Benefit, Business Benefits

Today’s hybrid work environments are incredibly complex, made up of highly sophisticated applications that are distributed across heterogeneous networks and accessed by end users from a variety of locations that may have vastly different underlying network conditions. ThousandEyes WAN Insights helps IT operations teams anticipate changes to these environments using data-driven analysis that gives them the ability to implement the network updates necessary to optimize and maintain consistent user experience.

Figure 4. ThousandEyes WAN Insights enables enterprises to gain operational efficiency through issue prevention and policy efficacy verification.

With ThousandEyes WAN Insights, organizations now have a powerful guide that provides actionable recommendations to reduce issues and optimize performance across Internet, cloud, and SaaS. In particular, network operators can: 

  • Improve user experience by avoiding user degradation before it happens

  • Verify and validate that implemented policies meet business requirements 

  • Create a perpetual improvement cycle to optimize network and application performance over time

  • Utilize IT and operations personnel more efficiently and empower them to focus on strategic activities rather than reactive triage

  • Develop a foundation for enabling intelligent network automation

The Foundational Step Toward Self-Optimizing Networks

ThousandEyes WAN Insights with Cisco SD-WAN helps network ops move from reactive to preventative—representing a major breakthrough on the path towards a future of proactively self-optimizing networks and services. ThousandEyes co-founder and GM, Mohit Lad, discusses this pivotal milestone in his post Empowering Our Customers to Thrive in an Internet-centric World. To understand how you can join us in shaping the future of enterprise networks, contact us.

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