3 Myths about Internet Connectivity – And How They Could Affect Your Business

Today’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) invest money and effort in ensuring that the Internet links they provide to their customers work properly.  But is the investment delivering?  Let’s do a reality check and review some common myths related to Internet connectivity – and see if there is really any truth behind them.

Myth #1: My Internet connectivity is reliable enough.

Throughout my business travels I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many customers and all of them want their application service levels to be met.  When we talk about their link connectivity challenges, I hear “the SLA agreement I have with my ISP is good enough” followed by “the last incident of a SLA outage was a really long time ago.”

The truth?  While our memory might be subjective some times, ISP outages happen. 
One of the most recent and well-known instances was the Time Warner cable outage in August 2014.  This outage resulted in a huge spike in the number of reported issues for Time Warner and it affected major areas of the central US as well as the West and East coasts.

The expansive Time Warner Cable outages were allegedly a result of routine network maintenance. 

Did Time Warner invested in their cable resilience?  Of course they did.  Was it important to them to eliminate link downtime?  Of course.  And still – this kind of link outage does happen.

Myth #2: Internet connectivity issues can be solved by adding more bandwidth.

Many customers claim that they are in good control of the wide area network (WAN) links.  Add to this that bandwidth is now less expensive compared to previous years – there is a misconception that link connectivity issues can be solved by simply adding more capacity.   The truth?  While bandwidth has become more affordable, simply adding more is not an insufficient way to address link connectivity issues. 

Here’s why:  think about a residential, sleepy suburban street.  It’s quiet most of the time and not jammed and it is used only by the neighbors living on that street.  Assuming you’re on your way to the office, your “First Mile” is not likely to cause any traffic issues.  But what happens 30, 40, or 60 minutes later when you enter a major highway?  This is where traffic congestion likely starts.  

One of the largest traffic jams ever took place in Beijing, China on August 14, 2010. It was caused by a combination of a spike of heavy trucks that transported coal from Inner Mongolia to Beijing and the Hebei Province plus road maintenance.

Where we spend most of the time when we commute to work (like me) – is the “Middle Mile” and this is where traffic (cars or Internet requests) gets jammed.  The point is that even if you add more capacity – it will be added to the “First Mile” and unfortunately, even your ISP doesn’t have control of when and how the traffic is going be congested in the “Middle Mile.”  It’s the “Middle Mile” that affects the overall link connectivity speed.  

Myth #3: It’s easy to measure my ISP’s SLA – it either works or not!

Many of the customers I encounter think they don’t have to worry about link SLA.  The reason is that they think that their ISPs already takes care of any potential connectivity speed problems – as it’s part of the link SLA.

The truth? Internet connectivity concerns are not only about availability and outages – they are also about speed and quality of experience. 

Here’s an example:  the SEA-ME-WE-3 is the codename for the largest submarine telecommunications fiber cable that connects Western Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and Western Australia.  In December 2014 there were speed issues in the segment connecting nodes #26 and #27 – the segment connecting Western Australia to Singapore. 

The SEA_ME_WE 3, led by France Telecom and China Telecom and administered by Singtel, is capable of delivering an amazing capacity of 480Gbps. It’s 39,000 kilometers/24,000 miles in length!  

What seemed like a “local” issue quickly translated into a speed problem that severely impacted the end-customers of iiNET – Australia’s 2nd largest ISP.  The key point, again, is that in spite of so much effort, resources and money being invested in infrastructure – link issues happen.

Evolution of WAN Connectivity Challenges

Gone are the days where a link load balancing solution was good enough to address link connectivity issues.  Today, the challenges of ensuring WAN connectivity are way more complex.  Here are a few examples:

  • ISP links can experience outrages not only due to ISP’s IT failures – but also due to potential  cyber-attacks.

  • The data center contains both mission-critical (ERP/CRM/corporate Website) and non-mission-critical applications (file download, video streaming, etc.) that can consume a lot of bandwidth.  Ensuring that mission-critical applications are allocated with sufficient capacity can be challenging.

  • There are more latency-sensitive applications in the data center (VoIP, video conferencing, etc.) that require at all times a minimal level of link bandwidth – otherwise they will not perform well and degrade productivity.

  • Applications are shifting to the cloud, meaning that the service levels to these applications become less deterministic and should also be optimized.

  • Shadow IT activity could potentially jeopardize corporate-sensitive information or breach regulatory compliance.

  • Corporate branch offices employ hybrid WAN architectures – i.e. a dedicated link connecting to the Internet and a dedicated link connecting to the data center.  These kinds of architectures must be supported by other network elements/solutions.

Internet Connection Service Level – What’s In It for Me?

Time is money and guaranteed WAN performance is critical for businesses.  Some companies report that the total damage from network outrages can be as high as $500,000 per hour!  Slow response time is also damaging and can translate into negative user experiences and extremely high levels of user abandonment.  To make a long story short – there is a clear need to ensure the service levels of connected applications – whether in the data center or in the cloud.

With all of these challenges happening, there is some good news.  Radware’s latest release, the LinkProof NG solution can fully address these challenges in a cost effective way.  LinkProof NG is a next-generation multi-homing and enterprise gateway solution which ensure the service levels of applications in the data center and/or in the cloud and we are excited to announce this solution.

Nir Ilani

Nir Ilani owns the global product strategy and practices of Radware’s Cloud Security services including Cloud DDoS Protection, Cloud WAF and Cloud Acceleration. He has over two decades of diverse engineering and product management experience including managing the design, development and release of industry-leading, high-scale solutions. Nir is an expert in Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Big Data and Networking technologies, and a frequent speaker in technology events. Nir holds a Bachelor in Computer Science and Business Administration as well as MBA, both from Tel-Aviv University. Nir writes about trends, technological evolution and economic impact related to Cloud, Security and everything in between.

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