For many businesses, the way they manage their IT environment is changing rapidly at the moment, with growing use of options such as cloud computing putting new pressures on existing infrastructures.
Whether it is Software-as-a-Service tools replacing traditional on-premises applications or migrating specific applications to Infrastructure-as-a-Service, moving from data centres to the cloud presents a range of challenges to existing WANs.
Network World explained that legacy WANs are implemented on the understanding that their primary job will be to connect users to applications internally, with traffic going to and from a centralised data centre, or between machines on the network.
However, today's environment no longer looks like this, with the fastest-growing type of traffic being branch-to-cloud. For many enterprises this is now their most important type of networking communication, but it is one that many legacy WANs are not well-equipped to deal with.
In many cases, traffic going to and from cloud services is forced to take a circuitous route through the data centre, which increases costs and results in performance betng negatively affected.
"Today's legacy WAN has inherited decades of complexity and an alphabet soup of network protocols," the publication stated. "Even simple-sounding things - like leveraging multiple WAN links simultaneously, or routing traffic based on quality measurements - are extremely complicated, and in some cases next to impossible."
This is because many WANs are still designed with a legacy mindset that takes its lead from the founding principles of the internet - to be a fully distributed architecture with no central control. But while this has worked well for the internet as a whole, it does not necessarily lend itself to success in today's business environment.
"Obviously the design did many things right, otherwise the internet would not be where it is today," Network World stated. "But somewhere along the way enterprises also got stuck with the same design assumption - that every WAN should run like a mini-internet, with all the same complexity."
One result of this is that IT staff spent an inordinate amount of time configuring, deploying and troubleshooting their network, which therefore reduces overall staff performance and leaves key talent focusing more on day-to-day management and maintenance, rather than activities that can help the business grow and move forward.
To tackle this problem, one solution is software-defined (SD) networking. A centrally-orchestrated SD-WAN can offer businesses a much less complex solution that can eliminate the hassle associated with keeping many separate sites configured and on the same page.
As well as reducing the cost and complexity of managing an enterprise WAN, these solutions also offer better security and performance as a result of being easier to control.
"Customers with legacy WANs are now saying 'enough is enough. We don't need more band-aids'," Network World said. "We need a WAN that is optimised for the cloud, that can automatically translate high-level business intent into consistent network-wide behaviour.