The need for more predictable connections into the cloud is what is driving one of today's hottest services -- private cloud interconnection -- according to one of the companies delivering those services. Managed services provider Masergy is finding that dedicated connections into Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and other clouds represent its hottest service right now and -- perhaps surprisingly -- it isn't for the security they provide.
"We are hearing great things from customers about the performance impact of those private interconnects," Masergy Communications Inc. CTO Tim Naramore tells Light Reading in an interview. "Specifically, with the private connections, our customers are seeing big performance gains of up to 50% over doing a pure Internet connection with IP Sec tunnels."
The fact that the private connections can offer additional security is a bonus but not the driving factor, notes Naramore, who is one of the six service provider executives participating in next week's Big Communications Event keynote panel on the future of communications service providers. With more intense workloads moving into the cloud, and the arrival of things such as Office 365, businesses need more predictability in the performance of their connections than the public Internet can provide, he said.
Managed security a hot service
While security isn't driving private cloud connections or virtualization at the edge, it is a growing concern -- managed security services are one of the hottest areas for Masergy in terms of service growth. That's true largely because many of its customers aren't able to find and hire their own security experts at a time when those folks are very much in demand, Naramore says. What the managed service provider is delivering in the security realm has two specific attractions: It uses data analytics that look at the specific traffic of the customer for anomalous behavior and it keeps all that data on the customer site.
For data sovereignty and compliance reasons, some customers need their data to be handled locally and not moved off site or across borders, he notes. The behavioral analytics engine can detect anomalies in the customer's specific network traffic and analyze these, in addition to the typical signatures of bad actors and data from intrusion detection, firewalls and other typical security devices to give Masergy customers a unique view of specific issues and potential problems.
"It's not about what everybody is seeing, it's what you're seeing," he says.
Virtual firewalls not going strong
The virtual routers launched a year ago have been very popular with Masergy customers. Interestingly, virtual firewalls -- expected to be one of the primary virtual CPE use cases -- have been slower to take off.
"Virtual routers have been very successful, virtual firewalls have lagged behind," Naramore says. "I believe it's the economics. You can buy a physical device for same price as virtual device."
There are more things coming quickly down the product pipe. Masergy launched WAN Optimization as a managed service this year, in response to requests from its systems integrators, and is already in the labs with multiple vendors trying to virtualize that offer. The vendors engaged include the two it is already using -- Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD) and Silver Peak Systems Inc.
The challenge all of the WAN optimization folks are facing in virtualizing their service is reducing its footprint so it can run on the ADVA Optical Networking /Overture virtualized CPE platform Masergy deployed a year ago, Naramore says. The current WAN optimization requires more storage for caching than is available on that platform.
"It is more aimed at processor kind of loads, not storage," he says. "We are working with vendors and helping them reduce their footprint if they want to run on the platform."
Also in the Masergy labs right now is its approach to SD-WAN as a managed service, which should be rolling out this summer. There has been a ton of industry hype around SD-WAN products, but Naramore is a bit skeptical about that early buzz.
The solutions he's seen so far seem very enterprise focused, lacking the multi-tenancy of a service provider solution, and they remain vendor proprietary. In addition, enterprises that want to adopt this on their own could find themselves back in the business of dealing with multiple broadband connections from different operators -- something many of them have already outsourced and don't want to take back.
Masergy's managed services approach will continue to manage those broadband access relationships for its customers but add the power of SD-WAN to deliver bandwidth and performance on an application-specific basis, he says.
Today, most enterprises use routing tables to distinguish between traffic that can run on the public Internet, like social media and streaming traffic, and the business apps that need private network connections. With a managed SD-WAN service, those decisions can be made more dynamically on an application-by-application basis, and traffic is routed to the nearest point of presence and immediately onto the Masergy backbone, rather than riding a series of router hops across a public Internet tunnel.
Not everyone's cup of tea
Ever the pragmatist, Naramore says SD-WAN won't be the solution for everyone, but it will have great appeal for companies wanting connections to widely distributed sites and for those in areas where private access is still very expensive, such as in Africa, South America and parts of the Middle East.
"It's going to be a hybrid world for some time to come," he says. "In some cases SD-WAN will be perfect, in others it will be overkill. We try not to get too enamored of the technology, and instead see where we can use it to best meet our customer needs."
Masergy will be front and center at next week's Big Communications Event in Austin May 24-25, and you can still join us by registering here. The event is free to communications service providers. Masergy's Chairman and CEO Chris MacFarland will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday, and its vice president of global technology, Ray Watson, will be part of a panel discussion on security in the virtualization era, also on Tuesday.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading