Now that is what I call a wide area network - If you are rooted to planet Earth

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Now that is what I call a wide area network banner

If, like me, you have been concerned about the network gap while trying to provide end-to-end visibility and performance management in a hybrid and multicloud environment, then there have been a couple of interesting product announcements in the last week.

I mention the announcement by Google of its Network Connectivity Center first, only on the grounds that, in their own words, it provides “planet-scale network management”. That is what you call a Wide Area Network, unless of course you are NASA managing the network communications with the Mars Rover.

Network Connectivity Center integrates with Google’s Network Intelligence Center to deliver end-to-end visibility, and it is clear that there has been significant collaboration with Cisco, going back to their joint announcement of the Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud in April 2020.

The other product announcement was last Tuesday, 23rd March of the new Equinix Precision Time™ service. Time-as-a-Service sounds like an ideal solution for stressed out employees and managers trying to deal with ever greater demands on their time. In reality, it is a service that supports network timing protocols such as NTP and PTP in a cost-effective way delivered over the Equinix Fabric.

As the world has moved on-line and into the cloud, and business services have become truly global, the challenge for any latency sensitive and regulatory controlled communications has been in delivering consistent real-time performance. Think about the requirements of synchronisation in multi-user on-line games, the challenges of lip-synching audio and video feeds for global broadcasters, or the need for highly precise time stamping to maintain an ordered sequence of transactions for high-frequency trading platforms. The consistent performance of network transactions to meet those critical requirements, delivered as a service, is the promise of this Equinix announcement.

For me, the importance of these two announcements is the recognition that service levels for global, mission critical network dependent services can no longer rely on “reasonable endeavours”. Other vendors will have to up their game. These are early days and as I get a deeper understanding of these offers, I may discover that there may be some trade-offs to be made.

It is hardly surprising that both announcements lean heavily on the capabilities of their own global backbone networks. Clearly, both solutions will have been designed and launched with an eye on product pull-through for their core services. There will be questions about where the Edge is and how developments in Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) functionality interface and impact these new services.

Also, while Google has probably been the hyper-scaler most open to the idea of true multicloud, it remains to be seen how easy it will be to implement planet-scale network management across applications and services running on other cloud providers. However, I am firmly of the view that if a vendor has a solution that meets a mission critical business requirement better than anyone else, then that trumps any fears over vendor lock-in and lack of portability…as long as you have a clearly defined and documented exit strategy if things don’t work out.

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