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Introducing ThousandEyes WAN Insights

By Abhishek Rai
| | 12 min read


Revolutionize your Cisco SD-WAN with forecast-based application path selection and proactive troubleshooting.

The world around us is rapidly changing, and digital transformation efforts have resulted in a migration toward cloud services, SaaS applications, and Internet-enabled environments, such as SD-WAN (Software-defined Wide Area Network). The acceleration of digital transformation projects has coincided with a rise in performance expectations from both a business and end-user perspective. As a result, network operators have found large portions of their time taken up with reactive firefighting, often leaving them little time for more strategic optimization work. 

In order to meet the evolving needs 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 are excited to announce general availability of our latest innovative product: ThousandEyes WAN Insights. WAN Insights is a new ThousandEyes product that introduces proactive path recommendations and visibility workflows to optimize end-user experience across your Cisco SD-WAN. Now, network teams can proactively troubleshoot their network and mitigate potential end-user impacting conditions like never before. 

As network teams adopt WAN Insights into their day-to-day workflows, they are likely to see a reduction in reported issues along with a reduction in time to troubleshoot end-user issues. Recently, we sat down with Michael Kutka, Network Architect at Insight Global, to hear how they're using WAN Insights to deliver exceptional application experience and a resilient enterprise network. You can watch that video below.

Here's a quick look at the key features of ThousandEyes WAN Insights:

  1. Recommendations Screen: For each application onboarded, WAN Insights gives path recommendations for each site, including network path or traffic routing changes, in order to improve performance for a particular application category and to mitigate negative end-user impacts. Network operations teams can use the Details screen to understand the reason for the recommendation.

  2. Site Details Screen: Measure the quality of applications across all your sites and dive into the details of network conditions impacting the quality.

Application-centric Approach To Become Proactive

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. With an ever increasing reliance on the performance of these applications, any disruption to performance can have a direct impact on users’ digital experience and, potentially, their productivity. So any scenario in which you’re only able to react to an issue after it has occurred has the potential to not only amplify the impact but also to prolong the duration. In other words, the longer it takes to remediate an issue, the bigger the impact can be to the end users. This is not only true for issues that are obvious enough to trigger some user complaints or automated mitigation for short-term relief, but also for scenarios where a specific application's performance has become accepted as “normal,” when in fact, proactive action could improve the end users’ experience.

Ultimately, operating your environment in a reactive model will not only have a larger impact on the experience of your end users, but doing so is also likely to hinder your ability to identify and resolve long-term degradation issues. We believe that the first step to move from a reactive approach to optimizing end-user experience toward a proactive approach is to have visibility that allows correlation between the network performance and its impact to all your business-critical applications—whether these are critical SaaS applications, such as Microsoft 365, SAP, and Webex by Cisco, or in-house applications critical to running the business.

That is why we adopted an application-centric approach in WAN Insights. Every insight that WAN Insights provides is given in the context of an application, whether it is correlating user impacts to network quality or providing forecast-based long-term path recommendations to make proactive routing changes. 

WAN Insights comes with six out of the box applications—Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Salesforce, Webex by Cisco, GoToMeeting, and voice—with predefined SLA metrics to get deployments up and running quickly, while also providing the capability to onboard additional applications, including custom ones, as required.

Figure 1. Correlating network performance in context of the application 

A New Paradigm: Reactive to Proactive SD-WAN 

We know that dynamic network conditions are sometimes beyond the control of the network teams. Issues will inevitably happen and impact the end users’ experience. But what if the SD-WAN network could avoid end-user experience impacts by forecasting the future behavior of its transport layers? This could mean that network traffic is less likely to be impacted by deteriorating network conditions because the network team proactively moved the traffic to an alternate, stable path.

To enable this workflow, WAN Insights is introducing long-term path recommendations, enabling network teams to add forecasting capabilities to their SD-WAN network. The goal is to forecast the long-term path quality and proactively move traffic to the path that is less likely to have deteriorated conditions in the future.

Figure 2. Long-term path recommendations with potential quality improvements per application

WAN Insight’s recommendation engine continuously monitors all the network paths in the context of your business-critical applications and issues recommendations for paths with better quality forecasts. Recommendations are issued when there is an alternate path with a better quality forecast than the rest of the paths used in the network.

The recommendation also computes user traffic information to help the network teams to identify high-impact sites so they can prioritize recommendations quickly. In the following example showing a production network running WAN Insights, the recommendation is to move the traffic to “biz-internet” as it is forecasted to improve the quality by an additional 12.57%.

Figure 3. WAN Insights recommendation to use biz-internet for a potential 12.57% improvement 

Forecast-based recommendations represent a new way of thinking about path selection in SD-WAN networks. Using an extensive what-if analysis to determine the potential outcome, based on the varying network conditions in relation to the application performance, it becomes possible to avoid issues by moving traffic to an alternate path before end users are impacted. 

To help the teams understand the rationale behind the recommendation and the network conditions that resulted in the forecast, each recommendation comes with a recommendation details page. The details page will identify areas of the network connected to the site that are contributing to the forecasts, and it will allow teams to better interpret forecasts using fundamental network metrics, such as loss, latency, and jitter.

Figure 4. Recommendation details highlight the data behind a recommendation 

This new recommendation workflow empowers network teams, for the first time, to mitigate scenarios leading to negative end-user experiences. At the same time, they can investigate any problematic paths.

Forecast-based path recommendations are only generated for a given application when there is a better path is available. WAN Insights will not issue a recommendation if all the paths are equally good or bad.

Preventative Troubleshooting

We understand that network teams want to ensure that all paths provide optimum quality, but the reality is that manually monitoring thousands of paths and measuring their impact on the end-user experience is impractical. With WAN Insights, we are introducing a new visibility workflow to solve this problem. Now, the networking team can use the Site Details section in WAN Insights to quickly measure the quality of each site in the context of their business-critical applications and proactively start troubleshooting. The view, by default, sorts the site and the application where the negative end-user impact is high, making it easier for the network teams to identify and prioritize sites and applications that require immediate attention.

Figure 5. Site quality in relation to business-critical applications

The Site Details screen further expands to provide detailed context into areas of the network that are affecting end-user experience of the applications’ users.

Figure 6. Detailed perspective of conditions impacting site quality relative to the application 

Using this new troubleshooting workflow, network teams can quickly establish innocence or identify the responsible party, triggering a root cause workflow using ThousandEyes monitoring test capabilities.

ThousandEyes WAN Insights with Cisco SD-WAN helps Network Operations (NetOps) move from reactive to preventative, representing a major breakthrough on the path towards a future of proactively self-optimizing networks and services. For a deeper look at WAN Insights, you can watch the demo video below or contact us to speak with a member of our team.

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