For the Wide Area Network in need of a makeover, WAN Optimisation is very this season- sort of Gok Wan you might say. Efi Gatmore CTO and Adam Davison Corporate VP Sales and Marketing at Expand Networks, showed iQ what today's WANs should be wearing.
1. In a nutshell?
WAN Optimisation is about enabling the Wide Area Network (WAN) to act like a high performance Local Area Network (LAN) thereby improving the performance of both the applications and the people connected to it.
It's most commonly done using a combination of sophisticated QoS, accelerations, and compression techniques which work in tandem to mitigate the specific characteristics of the WAN. WAN Optimisation technology works to alleviate the negative effects of congestion and latency caused when data and applications have to traverse the limited bandwidth of the network.
2. So what's in it for us?
A more productive and efficient network and a more productive and efficient workforce, for starters.
3. Our WAN is just fine thanks….
Are you sure? While the common or garden WAN supports the business by enabling remote workforces to function as one, it's also notoriously expensive and complex and offers a whole lot less bandwidth- and so has a tendency to chip away at your bottom line. Whereas LANs commonly have bandwidth to burn, WANs typically have as little as 128KB. Apply the same approach to connecting remote entities across the WAN as you do for local connections and you're sure to be hit by slow network throughput and delays.
In the absence of a local server, applications and users are forced to traverse the WAN- so have to deal with latency and bandwidth congestion, which, coupled with the chatty nature of applications, results in poor performance- directly impacting productivity. Faced with such issues, businesses have no choice but to either run their applications in a constrained environment, or get hit with a high-cost bandwidth upgrade, and often both. This is where WAN Optimisation comes into its own.
Globalisation = increasingly distributed workforce= global connectivity = business continuity headaches.
Most business critical applications and application protocols simply weren't designed for WAN environments, so they too suffer from the intrinsic latency and bandwidth limitations of the WAN. And, with initiatives like server consolidation and virtualisation on the up, it's only likely to get worse as remote users get further and further away from physical servers and applications- increased distance means increased latency and congestion.
Even with sufficient bandwidth, which in itself is hardly a given, congestion leads to WAN bottlenecks that slow down data backup and synchronisations, or worse, slow down the other critical applications running the business.
5. What about applications?
Unfortunately, mission critical applications don't always get the priority on the WAN that their importance merits, especially where bandwidth is tight; without QoS or prioritisation, WANs treat all traffic the same. As the network gets congested, applications have to compete for bandwidth; application packets may start taking different paths or may even be temporarily queued up or throttled down. And before you can say helpdesk meltdown, users everywhere are complaining that their vital Oracle, SAP or voicecall sessions have fallen over.
6. Key ingredients
In ensuring a remote access experience that's as "LAN-like" as possible, the delivery of all mission critical applications and file services – without exception- is an absolute must. With network simplicity and enterprise agility increasingly core to today's CxO's strategy, true WAN Optimisation has to be mindful of the whole networking environment and encompass a full arsenal of technologies.
7. What about virtualisation?
True server consolidation can only be enabled if file servers can also be virtualised. A WAN Optimisation platform should provide the virtual services needed to actually remove the branch office file servers completely- still enabling remote print services and network-based DHCP services.
8. In the datacentre – Virtual WAN Optimisation (VWAN)
Whilst the pressure is greater than ever to reduce costs and drive towards greener IT via technologies such as datacentre virtualisation, in reality, as costs go down, application performance tends to go down with them.
So virtualised environments need to be optimised just like any other. Virtual WAN (VWAN) Here, optimisation essentials include a VWAN optimisation appliance, management tools, and utilities for high availability and shared storage.
9. At the desktop- consolidation & virtualisation (VDI)
More and more enterprises are migrating from Terminal Services environments to desktop consolidation, utilising VDI as the foundation to deliver centralised desktops to remote users. The problem is that as branch offices become wholly dependent on the WAN for the application performance they end up back at square one. Managing and optimising all IP WAN traffic including the acceleration and management of the interactive nature of ROP traffic over which virtual connections are run, is crucial to the success of virtual desktop projects. WAN Optimisation both improves application performance and mitigates the inherent WAN issues that jeopardise virtualisation projects- latency, bandwidth constraints, reduced user numbers, lack of prioritisation of critical applications.
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