I’ve seen plenty of change throughout my career.  The first big wave was IP telephony, then a large security wave, next up was wireless and then security again. Now, we are on to the data center.  I have learned that the more we change the better we become, and the more our users rely upon the services we provide.

Technology, specifically IP-based networking technology, is no longer a luxury – it is something that we all have become dependent on.  For example, school systems are starting to use tablets over traditional books.  When networking outages started to be related to revenue lost, I knew it was a big deal.  Now if the network is down – our children’s’ education could be effected.

While we are becoming more dependent on IP Internetworks – our forwarding decisions are still largely based on technology that was developed in the ’80s and ‘90s.  Literally, BGPv4 – something that was standardized in 1994 – carried the IP packet that delivered this post to you.

Admittedly, there has been work to enhance our routing protocols each and every year.  But largely they are all founded on simple destination-based forwarding.  While destination-based forwarding works perfectly well, it does not offer the granular flexibility that modern day applications and engineers require.

Intelligent WAN Design

Enter the concept of Intelligent Wide Area Networking – or iWAN.  iWAN is a huge idea.  At its core, it is a graceful way to determine path by application.  This is a grand shift of thought.  As I previously stated, forwarding decisions are currently destination or subnet based.

Diving a bit deeper: The typical subnet may contain hundreds of applications inside.  As a result, in a traditionally routed environment, all applications within that subnet or destination would follow the same path.  The iWAN concept allows us to intelligently program the network to take full advantage of multipath networks on a very granular basis.

iWAN could not have come at a better time.  The businesses that we support are adopting cloud services faster than ever before.  This means, as network engineers, we need to build our network more flexible, more agile and more cost effective than ever before.  iWAN provides us all of this ability plus much more.

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