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How Brownouts Impact The Network -- And Your Business

It is usually easy to tell if part of your WAN has had a blackout. One or more of its circuits stops working and then your backups probably kick in, after seeing that the downed link(s) are no longer responding to pings. A brownout, though, is more of a gray area.

Just as an electrical brownout implies a severe drop in voltage but might not be an outage per se, a WAN brownout follows a sharp degradation in link quality but might result in the affected circuits still being technically “up.” This decline may be triggered by congestion across the network or a problem on the service provider’s end.

The real costs of a WAN brownout
Regardless of the cause, a brownout can stir up major problems for the WAN. For example, a low-bandwidth circuit could slow application performance to a crawl, yet not cause your auxiliary circuits to activate, since it can still respond to pings.

Dealing with a network brownout requires an intelligent WAN solution.

The financial toll from brownouts can also be considerable. Research firm Gartner has estimated that the average cost of network downtime is $5,600 per minute, or more than $300,000 per hour. Each enterprise must determine what functions are at risk from a WAN outage and plan their mitigation and disaster recovery strategies accordingly.

With a WAN blackout/brownout, the total costs will consist of “hard” figures such as the number of branch and remote sites that depend on the WAN, as well as “soft” ones such as the amount of retail or banking business potentially lost because of the incident.

Can a software defined WAN solve the brownout issue?
What really needs to happen when a brownout occurs? Traditional WANs, as we have touched upon here, often struggle to respond to the quasi-outage conditions that surround a brownout. Faster, more intelligent network mechanisms are needed.

Enter the software defined WAN. An SD-WAN solution such as Talari’s Failsafe SD-WAN excels at the tasks required to navigate a brownout:

  • It constantly measures the quality of network paths for latency, jitter and packet loss, while measuring performance to the destination.
  • It then relays this information to the appliance to enable dynamic, real-time traffic engineering that supports mission-critical applications.
  • It can, as such, respond to a brownout by sending traffic over more reliable paths than the ones experiencing congestion.

These capabilities are made possible by the SD-WAN’s intelligent utilization of links, whether they’re all MPLS, a mix of MPLS and broadband Internet or some other combination (e.g., one with 5G LTE, etc.). It makes the most of available bandwidth and reacts instantly, with subsecond failover, to changes in demand on the WAN, as well as both blackouts and brownout.

An SD-WAN ensures a more reliable network. Brownouts may be an issue for traditional WANs that lack the responsiveness to quickly identify and mitigate drastic changes in link quality. This is not the case for a solution such as THINKING WAN that knows how each path is performing at all times. Find out more with a demo today!

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