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Three Facts About Network Benchmarking

By Jayne MillerSep 19, 2019

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If we were to take our blog and make one of those word clouds that you saw at every tech summit in the mid-aughts (or on many an inspirational Pinterest board, for that matter), there's one word that would be pretty big. Benchmarking.

We've covered hypothetical network benchmarking and even shared use cases from companies that reassessed—even migrated—their network. But today we're laser-focused on explaining what network benchmarking is and why we've spilled so much digital ink on the subject. 

Benchmarking isn't a network overhaul. It's a network evaluation. 

We've said it before and we'll say it again. Benchmarking is about taking stock of your network against your cost, security, and performance goals. It's genuinely assessing how much you're spending on your network against how much you're getting.

If "benchmarking" conjures thoughts of major network modifications and migrations, take a deep breath. It's just gathering information and checking in to make sure everything is as good as it can be. 

TeleGeography's approach to benchmarking includes modeling different network scenarios to understand how tiny changes might reverberate through a network and affect those same cost, security, and performance factors—for better or for worse. 

Benchmarkers might discover that moving to a hybrid or SD-WAN enabled WAN could lower network costs. Or that a small investment could yield major performance upgrades. 

 If "benchmarking" conjures thoughts of major network modifications and migrations, take a deep breath. It's just gathering information and checking in to make sure everything is as good as it can be. 

Yes, SD-WAN is a hot part of benchmarking right now.

What is SD-WAN and why is it such a big part of benchmarking?

First, let's do the definition: SD-WAN combines traffic prioritization, management, and security functions into a centrally-controlled, transport-independent network overlay. Appliances and software augment traditional CPE to assess and route application traffic over different network connections based on performance criteria.

WAN managers can pre-configure performance criteria for different applications in a centralized controller, and the system routes traffic based on which links meet these application performance standards. Users can update application policies and security rules in real time as network requirements change. 

Even better, WAN managers can optimize traffic flow through underlying network connections by routing lower-priority, less performance-sensitive traffic over cost-effective services such as broadband or DIA, while reserving more costly, higher performance private MPLS links for real time voice, video, or other performance-sensitive traffic.

Even better, WAN managers can optimize traffic flow through underlying network connections by routing lower-priority, less performance-sensitive traffic over cost-effective services such as broadband or DIA, while reserving more costly, higher performance private MPLS links for real time voice, video, or other performance-sensitive traffic. This approach to network design addresses many of the performance and security issues associated with integrating public internet into a corporate WAN design. It also allows WAN managers to leverage multiple connections actively, rather than keep an otherwise unused backup on hand.

Okay. That was a lot. Our own Brianna Boudreau explains it even better.

All this to say: as far as benchmarking goes, SD-WAN is the exciting new frontier. WAN managers are keen to see SD-WAN solutions modeled within their unique network configuration. (It comes up a lot, is what we're saying.)

No network is too small or too large for a checkup. 

You take your car in for tune-ups. You do an annual physical with your doctor. This is the same thing.

This is network wellness—and a network of any size or shape can benefit from review.

We'll speak from our experience. In working with our WAN Cost Benchmark tool, we've supported networks of all shapes and sizes.

We have it on good authority that you can learn something if you're benchmarking a network of 50 sites or 4,000. If you're 80% MPLS or 0. Or if your DIA port size mix is unlike any you've ever worked with before. 

The takeaway? Benchmarking is for everybody. It's proactive. It's about collecting information to make better business decisions. And it doesn't need to be a headache. 

Keep an eye out for more benchmarking stories on the TeleGeography blog. Or take a peek at our network benchmarking solution, designed to give network managers even more information about how their network is doing. 

Free Benchmarking Guide