Set budgets, obtain Wires only & Managed WAN pricing from BT Business.
The majority of managed services provider are reluctant to offer pricing without completing an end to end design. But, what if your business needs to set budgets? We'll be clear here. There is a fundamental need to fully align your requirements with the technical and productivity elements of your organisation. There is no doubt about the risk of buying on price. With this said, I believe there is a basic requirement to understand a base level of cost which assists with proposal direction. Where budgets are constrained, the design is much more aligned.
With the above in mind, we have produced an offer to obtain managed service pricing from BT Business. The pricing is based on the very latest product capability and hardware. Simply download our spreadsheet, send it back and we'll do the rest. If you need some resources to help, we are available.
Above: Our WAN procurement Mindmap. Design is important.
For the rest of this article, we'll discuss some of the key components IT Managers need to consider when procuring managed WAN services. We based our workflows with BT on aspects of ITIL:
- Availability Management
- IT Business Financial Management
- Network Service Level Agreements
- Service Desk
- Network Incident Management
- Problem Management
- Business Capacity & performance trends
- Business continuity
- Managed WAN Services Migration
- Networks and Change management
The typical MPLS or VPLS managed WAN touches every aspect of a business. It is through wide area connectivity that employees are able to be productive and the orgnanisation is able to deliver products and services.
The capability of cloud technology is evolving faster than ever before, we are in an age where tablets and phones are incredibly powerful. More than this, the lines are being blurred between the consumer and business use case with equal performance from both camps. The challenge is to continuously adopt and adapt your organisations connectivity access to meet the new functionality and productivity. There are new consumption models where vendors are creating public and private cloud services together with a hybrid of both types. If you dig beneath the surface, the actual basics of managed WAN solutions remains - the need to manage an infrastructure. This means ensuring that the technical aspects meet an architecture framework but also the surrounding provider process is fit for purpose. Bandwidth is becoming less of a focus as 1Gbps and 100Mbps Ethernet WAN services access circuits are available in most parts of the globe. Businesses require more from their networks and therefore managed WAN solutions / services are more critical than ever before from MPLS and VPLS to IPSec and cloud based services.
An interview with Richard Watson, managed services expert
Richard walks us through each of the sections which offers up a some first impressions. “Some of the content within the managed WAN services Mindmap shows some real changes in customer thinking and the networks / cloud market place.” As we are guided through the first sections of the Mindmap, Richard discusses how there is a trend to split managed services and solutions across providers which offer up distinct expertise and capability within their business. This is a step change from the general perception that ‘one throat to choke’ is a better way forward with less overhead and only a single number to call. In many respects, this view is changing since although there may be simplicity in a single route, frustration occurs later on through the interaction phase. In many respects, the multiple suppliers scenario creates a great modular design feature. The ability to bolt on managed services expertise based on the best in breed within the market place - a model which fits with cloud based capability. The flexibility in this approach also allows companies to remove each module if capability, service or commercials become untenable. Richard mentions that the single supplier means a business is reliant on all aspects of their service, across all products, being suitable throughout the typical 3 or 5 year contract term.
The downside? Interaction between customer and managed WAN services providers must be joined up, there is a danger each supplier operates within their own dedicated silo. Avoiding this scenario occurring requires presales flow work to join up troubleshooting. Richard mentioned that each supplier of service must have access to enough information about the flow of data through the LAN to the WAN to allow their teams to understand where their capability fits. We call this a framework which revolves around IT strategy - with the right framework in place, a multiple supplier modular approach is a trend worth considering.
Options and types of managed services - from MPLS, VPLS and Hybrid VPN to IPSec
Richard has written a number of whitepapers recently for Network Union regarding the proliferation of managed hybrid WAN solutions. “Increasingly, it is rare for organisations to opt for a single managed service since each of the main technologies in today’s market place fits the increasing number of requirements generated by the Enterprise”. he says. Before we talk about some of the vectors associated with management of each product, let’s define the technology.
MPLS - Multi Protocol Label Switching as a managed service
MPLS as a technology is the staple VPN of todays customers for both national and multinational businesses. With inbuilt security and privacy and, the option for support of delay sensitive applications together with predictable performance, the reasons are clear. As a managed offering, MPLS WAN services access supports a number of standard template configurations with a subset of routing protocols such as OSPF, RIP and of course static routes. The general setup under management allows a client to work with a provider, outline their application requirements with IP addressing and receive a preconfigured managed router. MPLS operates at layer 3 meaning the service must receive a set of unique private IP addresses per site.
VPLS - Virtual Private LAN Service
VPLS is a newer technology with some IT managers misunderstanding the product vs MPLS. The VPLS capability is an evolution of MPLS and, in simple terms, removes the layer 3 routed component allowing organisations to benefit from native layer 2 between sites. Richard mentions that a number of Enterprises misunderstood VPLS in the early days but the use of layer 2 managed WAN service provider offerings as a component of your network offers unique capabilities. “Extending layer 2 between data centre / hosting facilities allows clients to add or remove servers as if they are located within a single site.” This feature allows for resiliency and diversity and an easy route to growth. VPLS also provides an easy route to self management since the Enterprise is able to add their own layer 3 management. “Layer 3 self management with support for QoS is a good scenario for those businesses with complex networks. VPLS at layer 2 providers IT with capability to support aspects which a standard layer 3 MPLS service would not offer. Again, security is inbuilt as VPLS WAN services are a private based solution.
IPSec - IP Security Solutions
In the late 90’s, IPSec (IP Security) was pretty much the standard method of accessing customer managed VPN as an alternative to private secure technologies such as Frame Relay and ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode). However, as applications began to become more feature rich and businesses started to demand the basics of an SLA, MPLS has quickly taken over. “IPSec remains strong and is still an option in today’s security conscious business. The protocol has evolved to offer access to stronger encryption with remote users ensuring demand remains high. Some financial and government institutions (and other customers dedicated to the upmost security) will encrypt IPSec over their WAN services MPLS network.” Richard says. IPSec will encrypt any traffic over both private and public VPN services with the typical use across public ISP Internet services. IPSec is provided by many CPE devices including firewall and dedicated appliances. With so many devices supporting IPSec, the options for using an Internet VPN as a managed service are prevalent.
Managed WAN Service Providers and the SLA (Service Level Agreement)
“We never engineer a network based on an SLA, it is an indication of overall performance capability but nothing more”. The numerous clients which based their procurement decisions based on 5 9’s availability are in many ways making a mistake since the service providers penalty for downtime is of little consolation if your key application is not performing correctly. Richard notes single access circuits offered with 100% uptime as an example. With this said, the SLA does provide an insight into the managed WAN performance areas and attributes. One of the key areas for managed service providers when examining the SLA surrounds how quickly any changes to the network are carried out, the response time for hardware replacement and general support process.
MPLS, VPLS and Internet Jitter and Latency
Whether your VPLS, MPLS, IPSec or Ethernet WAN access is wires only or fully managed or not, the latency and jitter per quality of service (QoS) setting (Be, AF and EF) will allow IT teams to predict application performance. Richard mentions that “Even with a granular latency and jitter SLA matrix, IT need to note the impact of additional tail circuit distance. “This is especially important for those companies looking at global managed WAN services since the tails could be considerable in terms of distance.” he goes on to say. The SLA offered by providers only covers the core network which has the potential to mislead in many respects. Imagine a scenario where the SLA from the USA to Asia offers latency good enough to support delay sensitive applications such as voice and video. Add on some additional delay from tail circuits and the outcome could impact the application performance. “We have seen this happen” Richard mentions.
Support of WAN Services and associated cloud based solutions
Richard is mindful of network support services and where issues occur. “Support is one of those areas which is dependent on both the engineers ability to make changes and the surrounding workflows the support department moves through in order to work issues”. Richard goes on to explain that layers of bureaucracy exist creating confusion and delay. Where calls are fielded by call centres before passing through to engineers, un-necessary delay will occur. We know the importance of reaching a dedicated engineer who is well positioned to work your issue and make changes accordingly. “Stuff gets done” Richard states. In respect of managed WAN network services and solutions, the end to end process is a critical component to understand. Issues such as outages are expected to be dealt with directly as interfaces are continuously managed. However, the cause of the outage could be related to numerous different elements such as faulty managed hardware. With this in mind, examining how the fault process for hardware replacement occurs is a must. The majority of network providers will back off hardware maintenance via Cisco smartnet and alike which provides a nationwide 4 hour response time. Support also covers adds, moves and changes. Richard chatted for some time on how the managed side of making changes to the network is thankfully changing. “In the past, even simple changes were taking way too long due to the protracted and broken process in place within certain service providers”. Richard recalled a simple change of IP addressing (LAN) which took over two weeks because of order process issues. It is certainly the case that certain providers are still a little behind from a process perspective, the situation is becoming better with cloud portals and systems which allow both changes to be instigated but also, importantly, tracked. An example is your Ethernet bandwidth tier.
WAN Services Monitoring and reporting from the cloud - a user and customer experience
Richard makes a firm statement here. “Monitoring and reporting are the corner stone of any customer Wide Area Network whether wires only or fully outsourced”. In the main, even when ‘everything’ appears okay within a WAN, there are always issues reported concerning slow performance. And yet, often, the reporting tool data suggests nothing is wrong. This very issue exists within most Enterprise organisations today. The cloud monitoring and reporting of WAN connectivity is comprehensive and yet the complete picture is missed. In order to truly leverage reporting, the statistics and data should operate across the complete digital supply chain. In other words, from a users laptop and device, across the LAN and through the WAN and any hosts in between. This end to end monitoring capability is necessary to avoid the endless calls and meetings to diagnose where problems exist. This new standard or reporting is up and coming - Richard states that NU have partners to perform this kind of functionality today. Monitoring of networks is fairly standard from the perspective of uptime however flags should be recognised for packet loss and any degradation of service. A good monitoring platform will allow companies to put this kind of functionality in place.
Standard or non-standard WAN
In many cases, service providers are able to structure customer solutions which contain non-standard elements. Careful thought should be paid as to how these WAN services will be supported during contract. Richard mentions that presales teams will often have a good handle on how the non-standard elements will be structured and supported. In the cold light of day, an engineer working a call may be confused as to the setup and configuration creating delay or further issues. Richard recommends staying within a standard service offering where possible but he appreciates the need to move outside this mode of operation where there is a 'must have' capability. Keeping within the perimeters of supportable services is critical for ongoing service.
Global Managed WAN Services
A distinction should be made between global and national customers considering outsourcing management. The two key areas normally cover installation and ongoing support. When installing a service, thought must be given to regulations in certain regions together with language. The majority of global carriers, telcos and providers will possess multi linguistic staff, though a check is still necessary. The ongoing support should follow the sun and again, multi-linguistic capability is a must have skill.
Managed Network Project Management and service migration
Within the WAN services presales phase, a number of different customer elements will require documenting and collating. These elements include IP addressing, site demarcation details, QoS (Quality of Service), Application definition and flow, resilience and diversity together with IP routing. We are seeing the move toward a model which allows clients to input these details via a cloud portal which is then checked by installation resources. The portal method may sound a simple benefit but collating data in this way avoids missed requirements and mistakes. We hope you found our article on managed WAN services useful. Contact us to learn more or select the home button link at the top of this page.