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Application Assurance Explained So Easily Even a CEO Can Understand It

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If you're a CEO of any multi-branch organization that currently has—or would like to have—customers, application assurance may be the most importantly technology for your enterprise. Almost as likely, application assurance is the most important technology you've yet to hear about. (And equally as likely, you need an SD-WAN solution. If you haven't already deployed SD-WAN, read more about our Managed SD-WAN and contact us to keep up with your competition.)

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Fortunately when it comes to application assurance confusion, we're here to help clarify things.

Why Application Assurance?

Like most needs in consumer-facing industries, the need for application assurance starts with customer experience.

Because customer experience is now dominated by an era of hyper connectivity, customer experience is defined by the app. And it's not just the ones on your phone or the loyalty applications, but those that pass point-of-sale information that manage back office work through multiple cloud providers, VoIP, video and so much more. When it comes to your enterprise functionality, there is almost certainly an app—or 25—for that.

But the problem is apps depend on the network connections they go over and the inconsistent characteristics that come with it. Think how inconvenient it is when a page won't load over a crowded local network or when an inventory query won't return an estimate of how many of a product are in the warehouse. Or worse, imagine it's a POS and a sale is lost.

Partially, we've solved the bandwidth challenge with an assortment of connection types from many different providers. Cable. Fiber. DSL. Even cellular and satellite for remote locations. With the tangle of connection options available at a much lower cost and higher bandwidth than MPLS, distributed enterprises moved en masse from MPLS to SD-WAN and secure SD-WAN. (Check out this graphic on MPLS vs. SD-WAN to understand the journey. Or to learn why SD-WAN is your best choice, read more about the benefits.)

By itself though, SD-WAN solutions and even Managed SD-WAN doesn't necessarily solve the application performance issue. Broadband is great, but it still has many unpredictable characteristics and many different permutations across a distributed enterprise. You could still get irregular performance from branch to branch and consumer to consumer.  

This is hard work for SD-WAN software that needs to run on top of any type of circuit without knowing the exact performance or cost characteristics of the underlying service.

Understanding Application Assurance

So what is application assurance? Application assurance is a technology framework that ensures a predictable user experience for business-critical applications.

It works in three steps, identifying, classifying and prioritizing apps at the WAN edge—e.g, your store locations—to ensure the right allocation of bandwidth happens so the most critical apps (POS data or real-time voice and video) get data across at the highest priority while applications that are more tolerant of network congestion (say, email) are prioritized appropriately.

Step 1) Identification:

Application assurance first identifies what apps are sending data back and forth across the network. When working with HughesON Managed SD-WAN, many apps are natively identified by ActiveTechnologies, while any specific business critical apps can also be identified. In short, this step of the framework helps your recognize what kind of data is flowing across your network.These applications can then be controlled independently.

Step 2) Classification

With classification, application assurance allows you to establish priority levels for apps, so the network knows which ones to push through the WAN first. You set rules for your network as to which priority classification apps deserve, so general Internet traffic will never get priority over credit card transactions, for example.

Step 3) Prioritization

Prioritization is the most challenging step of application assurance. Here, application assurance ensures the right amount of bandwidth goes to each app, while shaping apps into the constantly changing capacity of the circuit. Put simpler, the characteristics of broadband change, even on the same circuit. Network congestion may cause a 50 Mbps connection to slow to 25 Mbps. Prioritization makes sure the highest priority apps get the amount of bandwidth they need while other apps are queued or slowed as needed. When high priority apps aren't in use, application assurance opens up more capacity for lower priority apps. Regardless, application assurance means consistently delivering high performance for your most critical apps and maximizing the available bandwidth at all times.

 

What It All Means

What application assurance means, ultimately, is a great customer experience regardless of location and regardless of the dozens and maybe hundreds of different broadband connections across your enterprise. Calls don't get dropped because of congestion caused by lower available bandwidth on a commercial broadband connection. All-important store functions don't get prioritized behind enterprise WiFi usage. And the experience for a customer is uniformly excellent no matter what the connection type of the location he or she may be in.

At a very simple level, think of it like all the advancements that make a car ride so smooth. Think of SD-WAN and the proliferation of broadband by itself as an early automobile. It's clearly an improvement on horses and manual power. But it wasn't the smoothest ride to make a truly great consumer experience. Adding on application assurance is like all the advancements that make the modern car ride so smooth. With cruise control your car will deliver a consistent speed whether the terrain goes up or down. Shock absorbers will deliver a consistent riding experience, whether going over rough pavement or fresh. In automatic, your transmission will determine the right points to shift gears, so all you have to do is keep the car headed in the direction you want and the built-in intelligence does the rest. 

Application assurance is the technology that makes the app-driven world of distributed enterprises an enjoyable experience, not an unpredictable one. Better performance. Better customer experience. In the app-centric world, that starts with application assurance.

 

About the Author

Nick Coval is a seasoned Enterprise Architect who builds complex enterprise-class network solutions for large organizations with distributed locations. He is a passionate technologist with a progressive vision for developing solutions with the customer and end-user objectives in mind.