Widening the spread

WAN optimisation is no longer just about accelerating applications across long distances. As applications get more demanding and systems come with more functionality, regional IT managers have to be extra careful when choosing and implementing these solutions.

Tags: Blue Coat Systems IncorporatedJuniper Networks IncorporatedRiverbed Technology IncorporatedUnited Arab EmiratesWAN
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Widening the spread The most common mistake we have seen with customers is that they only consider one type of application for optimisation. - Nigel Hawthorn, EMEA marketing VP for Blue Coat.
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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  October 12, 2009 Network Middle East Logo

The Middle East plays host to several industries that have reason to have branches, offices and business interests in several countries throughout the region. This necessitates the set-up and maintenance of a wide area network (WAN) that functions efficiently and delivers applications across long distances at optimal levels.

“Globally, the financial sector seems to be the driving force in the adoption of WAN optimisation technologies, but hospitals, utilities, oil and gas are all getting into the mix as well,” says Mashood Ahmad, regional managing director for the Middle East at Ciena.

“While the technology is not limited to one vertical, there has been a specific interest from financial services as well as transportation verticals. Typical usage patters include branch to headquarter communication and acceleration, as well as data centre replication and backup of traffic,” says Samer Shaar, regional director for Juniper Networks, Middle East, Central Africa and Pakistan.

It is a sign of the importance of WAN optimisation solutions in the market that, despite the recession, some enterprises are continuing to invest in these systems. This continuing growth is driven both by the changing face of applications themselves as well as improvements in various parts of the technology.

“The changes we’ve seen over the last year or so are less triggered by the technology itself, than by the proliferation of bandwidth-intensive applications such as cloud computing, as well as greater emphasis on performance and latency, especially for the financial sector. These have forced some key technological innovations to drive down cost while improving performance,” says Ciena’s Ahmad.

Taking count

When deployed and used the right way, a WAN optimisation solution can not only improve efficiency and performance across a distributed enterprise, but also significantly save on bandwidth costs. Considering the importance of WANs to the business functions of organisations, one would think that most Middle East enterprises that do operate distributed networks would have mastered the art of choosing, deploying and using a WAN optimisation solution. However, many of them derive less than their chosen solution’s promised performance due to one reason or the other.

“The most common mistake we have seen with customers is that they only consider one type of application for optimisation (perhaps Microsoft CIFS and MAPI) and then need to remove WAN optimisation products soon when other applications become as important. End-user organisations should first run an application assessment, check all the applications being run on the network and their likely importance over the next few years and choose a WAN optimisation vendor that can optimise the widest selection of applications,” says Nigel Hawthorn, EMEA marketing VP for Blue Coat.

Juniper Networks’ Shaar agrees, pointing out: “organisations choose a WAN optimisation solution only looking to a specific problem, like the performance issue connected with one application. They should look for a strategic approach to get more holistic benefits, rather then a tactical solution for just one specific problem that has arisen.”

He continues: “WAN optimisation is a dynamic and rapidly developing technology. Middle Eastern enterprises should make sure that they fully utilise the technology they acquire by efficiently maintaining their network and keeping a close relationship with the vendor. This will ensure that they are updated n latest developments and best practices.”

Ciena’s Ahmad emphasises the strategic value of WAN optimisation solutions when he says, “Total cost of ownership is rarely the driving force for deploying new network solutions. More often, the decision is based on what the organisation needs now. Unfortunately, many of these technologies are fixed, meaning there is no opportunity to scale, or operate beyond being a low-cost enterprise platform. This translates into bandwidth, performance and size restrictions. In a short time, enhancements are necessary, which are not just costly, but in many cases simply impossible.”

“The common mistake is that they do not follow the right capacity guidelines of the various devices in different placement scenarios. Capacity planning should be based on certain assumptions about traffic patterns, usage patterns and application protocols to be able to choose the right device based on the functionality and features it will be used for. Failing to do proper capacity planning and the right design may lead to unexpected performance patterns,” says Hesham Fayed, systems engineer at Cisco UAE.

These same omissions become major challenges for IT managers when they choose and implement a WAN optimisation solution. With a little care in the initial stage of the investment though, CIOs and their organisations can reap the many benefits that a well-working WAN solution can bring.

Doing it right

Choosing the ideal WAN solution for your organisation ensures that more than half the IT manager’s job is already done right.

“When choosing a WAN optimisation solution IT managers should consider the future requirements of the company and select a solution that will scale easily to match those requirements. For companies that do not have large-scale IT departments, another consideration is ease of implementation. Choosing a WAN solution which can be up and running in a few minutes with limited IT assistance can enable a company to save costs through reduced manpower requirements for the implementation, and shorter time scales for improved employee productivity,” says Philippe Elie, regional director of Riverbed, MEA.

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