Speed is of the essence; WAN optimisation

WAN optimisation is not just about optimising data transfer between offices any more; it involves optimising cloud traffic and applications.

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By  Georgina Enzer Published  August 20, 2013

WAN optimisation is not just about optimising data transfer between offices any more; it involves optimising cloud traffic and applications.

AN optimisation describes techniques and technologies aimed at reducing a company’s spend, by reducing or postponing the costs of bandwidth upgrades and improving user productivity. Today, there are a range of techniques, including tweaking protocol behaviour; Layers 3 (TCP acceleration) and 7 (Application acceleration) protocols can be spoofed and modified to reduce the latency that performance-hit WANs introduce; caching, which reduces duplicate data being sent repeatedly; governance, which protects critical application flows from congestion during bursts of activity; and compression, which is designed to reduce the amount of data sent in any transfer.

“The necessity for the diversity of these different techniques is due to the myriad requirements the traffic underpinning business applications requires to operate well. For example, you could compress or cache an FTP flow, tweak the rate at which applications like SharePoint share data over the WAN and protect voice/video streams coming from low capacity branch sites. Many applications were written and tested on LANs where high bandwidth, low latency and minimal loss are prevalent,” explains Dr Rupert Ogilvie, optimisation consultant, at IT optimisation expert Intergence Systems.

WAN optimisation is a solution that should allow an organisation to allocate the right values for the resources that they choose to do, and should give the people managing the network visibility of what is going on in the network, so they can make intelligent decisions on what to optimise and what not to optimise.

“WAN performance challenges can hamper many strategic IT initiatives. Limited bandwidth, long distances, and poor network quality, for example, can jeopardise key projects like offsite data replication, data centre consolidation, server/storage centralisation and cloud computing. Many companies justify an investment in WAN optimisation based on Wide Area Network (WAN) bandwidth savings. Through technologies like compression and de-duplication, WAN optimisation can reduce over 90% of traffic over the WAN, resulting in substantial application performance gains and potentially huge cost savings,” says Dave Greenfield, product marketing manager, at data acceleration expert Silver Peak.

However, there are even more advantages to WAN optimisation. By overcoming latency due to chatty protocols, it extends distances between locations. By eliminating dropped and out of order packets, it ensures cost effective networks, like the internet, perform like expensive dedicated networks. And finally, WAN optimisation uses quality of service and traffic shaping to enable voice, video, data and storage to reside on a single, converged network for maximum cost savings.

WAN in the cloud
As customers continue to deploy hybrid cloud models, the performance bottlenecks from using the internet, versus quality of service based point-to-point networks in deploying private clouds, increase performance bottlenecks in cloud deployments. Cloud optimisation as a service is offered to customers as a network optimisation solution between the two networks by providers.

Many WAN optimisation solutions are capable of running as virtual machines which can be placed in hosted environments or run as appliances in a public cloud.

“There are also now WAN optimisation services which are offered ‘as-a-service’. These virtual devices are able to construct a private WAN between themselves and then perform standard acceleration and optimisation techniques,” explains Intergence’s Ogilvie.

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