In the fall of 2019, Microsoft announced that Office 365 has hit a whopping 180 million active users per month. The line of subscription which was launched almost a decade ago averages 62,000 new users per day. With the application being so popular among commercial users, let’s explore if your network is ready to use Office 365 to its full potential. Let’s take a look at Office 365 application performance from different “points of views”. We’ll discuss, where office 365 is hosted, where the network traffic gets routed as per old network architecture, where users are residing, to which WAN medium is best suited.
60,000 ft: View from Microsoft Global Cloud Network
Office 365 is a distributed Software delivered via the cloud, -as-a-Service (SaaS). Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Skype are some of the well-known application services delivered by O 365. These services run on the client system which connects them to servers; e.g Exchange Server hosted in Microsoft Cloud. The client-server service relies on the communication between the user/client system in branch locations and the servers residing in Microsoft cloud. As a result, the degree QoE depends on two factors:
a) Network reliability
b) The latency between Office 365 clients and service front doors.
Network reliability and latency result from various factors. For example, first, the branch user traffic passes through DNS resolution. This DNS server generally, resides in the enterprise data center (DC). The traffic then travels via the datacenter again. This is because the egress is via a proxy server. The traffic also goes through NATing and the same path is followed back while getting the ingress from Office 365 based services hosted in Cloud, along with some trust issues and checking the pockets (read as packets) before allowing inside the network.
The ideal scenario would be to have the least amount of noise on the way to reach the Microsoft Global Network. Below are recommendations from Microsoft which will help enterprises to optimize Office 365 network performance.
- Identify Office 365 network traffic.
- Allow local egress of Office 365 network traffic from each location where client systems connect to Office 365.
- Allow Office 365 traffic to bypass proxies and packet inspection devices.
105 ft: Tulip Data Center, Bangalore India – One of the largest in the world.
Traditionally, enterprises steered Office 365 traffic from the branch to enterprise datacenter using MPLS. In DC, the traffic was backhauled for Inspection, proxying and several other operations. Once done, the application traffic was then steered to the Microsoft Global Network via any Internet connection. However, this approach is flawed.
Following the traditional networking approach enterprises are sending all the traffic from branch including Office 365 over “traditional” MPLS links to the Datacenter where a large number of operations (Inspection and proxying etc.) on application traffic is done and then sent to Microsoft Global Network via any Internet connection.
Now, let us explain where this approach is flawed.
- First things first, your traditional MPLS is being used extensively and as users are getting added to your organizations, demand to increase the width of MPLS pipe aka bandwidth is digging a hole in your IT budget!
- Second, your users keep complaining about the performance issues, they often compare the performance with their personal computers and personal emails (no datacenter there!)
- Third, your enterprise applications suffer, and you get more user complaints on the enterprise apps’ performance.
Fourth, your IT team is struggling to solve these performance issues and end up adding more of the traditional and investment-heavy MPLS to your IT expense
15 ft: Branch Office
The significant point of view here would be from the users. Users expect high speed, high performance which leads to a better experience of the overall application.
Below Sea Level: Broadband Optical Fiber Connections
Broadband has always been used in the traditional approach. Remember Datacenter will egress the Office 365 traffic via any internet connection? Broadband always had the ability to take traffic directly from branch to Microsoft Global Network and its benefits include:
- Optimal performance by optimizing route length.
- Dynamic routing to the nearest Office 365 entry point.
- Reducing the load on corporate network Infrastructure aka Precious!
- And the jackpot- it knows Office 365 traffic creates secure connections on both ends by leveraging client endpoint security and cloud security features.
ScaleAOn Level: Best view of the network that one can have!
For the last 5 years, Lavelle Networks has prioritized making the application experience better than ever from the network perspective. A thorough analysis was done, considering all the relevant levels and their perspectives to provide connectivity experience that is in the best interest of users.
With ScaleAOn, our trademark SD-WAN architecture, we have focused on the guidelines provided by Microsoft. From avoiding the Network hairpin scenario by providing tailored local Office 365 breakout, NAT support to local proxy and local DNS support, we have paid attention to every detail which will help us in providing the best user experience.
These carefully tailored features of ScaleAOn have now been implemented at 100 plus enterprises and over 12000 branch locations. Some of the unique features of ScaleAOn which help optimize Office 365 experience include:
- One-click local breakout for Office 365.
- Policy configuration made easier than ever, ScaleAOn absorbs the complexity and offers the most user-friendly console ever to control Office 365 application traffic.
- Dynamic Path Selection ensuring the best path for last-mile connectivity.
- Local DNS server to help you resolve the domain names directly from the branch.
- Local Proxy settings keeping in mind the application demands.
- Machine Learning to inspect the Office 365 traffic on receiving the first packet itself.
- Internet Backhaul for everything else except intended applications.
- The backup route to Office 365 in case of Broadband failure.
- End to end application visibility and monitoring.
ScaleAOn SD-WAN has a proven record of simplifying WAN management to offer higher QoE, 99.9% application uptime and double-digit cost reduction for branch and increased per-user bandwidth. To know more, read about Microsoft Office 365 Connectivity Challenges and Solutions.