Weinschenk: How is this different than things such as channel bonding in DSL or cable modem services?
Akin: That type of bonding -- lower layer boding – at layer 1 and 2, requires the CPE side and carrier side node to create that bonding tunnel. That is expensive and you have to go into every DSLAM and CMTS. It is definitely dependent on carrier. It is carrier-specific. And, since you don’t have a sense of what packet you are transmitting, you don’t know if it is VoIP or file transfer or whatever. You cannot leverage these newer bonding technologies and understand traffic and accordingly prioritize traffic. Even to this day, legacy DSL bonding is pretty much nowhere.
Weinschenk: So this is higher level.
Akin: In the newer approaches, you have the capacity and routing, and since it is in higher layer and routable, you can put it anywhere and it doesn’t need to be from a single carrier. You also now have added intelligence … At layer 7, the understanding is that you can do intelligent things. You can, for instance, reduce low-level resources and dedicate the capacity to real-time applications.
In essence, it enables the IT department to take control of their WAN. Previously, the older types of bonding needed to be done by a single carrier. Now, for instance, you can deploy to 50 branch offices and can pick and choose carriers and control the WAN far more than the carriers will. That enables more democratization, so to speak.
Weinschenk: Is this less expensive or more flexible, or both?
Akin: In a real deployment, one company we work with went from a single carrier on a single pipe to a consolidated WAN approach where there are multiple WAN links at the location. That led to about a 70 percent reduction in overall WAN costs. It can be higher or lower but it usually is very significant and on top of that there is added reliability.
Weinschenk: Is the reliability in using, for instance, three carriers so that two remain if one goes down?
Akin: It may shield you from losing packets or maybe shields you from going down completely.
Weinschenk: Is this approach being used now?
Akin: I wouldn’t call it mature. It still is a new technology solution, but is enterprise-grade now and mission-critical applications are relying on it. We have NATO and the DoD as customers. It is a major trend we are seeing. On the enterprise side, where we have the growth of distributed workforces, it is popular. I think all those trends are feeding into these types of technologies. Also the fact that more and more applications are moving to the cloud puts even more emphasis on performance of the links that connect the WAN to that cloud.