David White, SVP Global Business Development, Ipanema Technologies, has a background in WAN Optimization and has worked extensively in both enterprise and service provider markets.
As a result of acquisitions, multi-national enterprises often have a plethora of different IT systems. Data center and server consolidation simplifies complex infrastructures and reduces IT costs.
The costs of distributed enterprise infrastructure include hardware, software, maintenance, security and backup. These costs dramatically increase with the number of disparate systems. Global businesses operate branch offices and data centers at various domestic and international locations and in addition, increasingly employ mobile workers.
To consolidate IT infrastructure, enterprises typically choose between one or two data centers (particularly for disaster recovery) to which their existing applications and new applications are migrated. Even though these applications are now hosted in increasingly remote data centers, they continue to be used as before. Practically, this means that enterprise information no longer flows locally in the LAN, but instead over the WAN, resulting in slower response times and a considerable increase in data traffic. Without proper planning, IT consolidation projects can degrade application performance, impacting user productivity.
Additional bandwidth isn’t the answer to improve user satisfaction
Bandwidth can be an expensive IT investment. Removing server, hardware and maintenance costs through consolidation loses much of its impact if enterprises have to increase network bandwidth capability to support their distributed infrastructure. From our experience with large enterprise customers, bandwidth can be disproportionately consumed by non-critical applications. A single user at an oil company was consuming over 90% of the bandwidth through the use of recreational video applications. A WAN must have built-in controls to allocate resources based on the criticality of the applications used. For example, you must be able to specify objectives such as “any end user session, anywhere, anytime, must have at least 50kbps if using SAP.”
Consolidation and the WAN
Consolidation of servers and applications means more data traffic flowing across the WAN. As a result, application performance suffers due to delay, jitter and packet losses. According to a study we commissioned in Europe, poor application performance can cost up to $500,000 per year, due to reduced productivity, unfilled orders and decreased customer satisfaction. The research also showed that network bottlenecks resulting from consolidation can generally be eliminated by increasing bandwidth. Although confirmed by 57% of respondents, 75% feel that increasing bandwidth alone does not solve the application usage problems that occur from centralization of IT resources. Significantly, 93% would like improved network visibility and control of the data traffic flowing over the WAN.
Access to centrally stored remote information and groupware systems such as Outlook, SharePoint or Lotus Notes and proprietary applications like SAP, are all vulnerable to post-consolidation performance issues. WAN Governance allows applications to operate according to their level of business criticality and can guarantee the performance of critical applications at the individual user level.
The following aspects are key to a successful consolidation project:
- Discovering the applications on the network and understanding their performance
- Provisioning network resources according to business-critical application requirements, including application prioritization
- Guaranteeing “application-centric” Service Level Agreements (SLAs) regardless of the type of network
- Measuring application performance with quality metrics to improve operational visibility and to enable WAN Governance based on granular application performance information
- Automatic provisioning of new applications, sites and additional end users
The WAN governed as a whole thus becomes a solid asset on which the business can rely.
Governing WAN Infrastructure – it’s more than acceleration
Centralizing disparate servers in a consolidation project presents considerable challenges. Enterprise services may run smoothly in the local environment, but were not designed for operation over a WAN. Using the WAN to access applications significantly increases bandwidth requirements between sites.
To address this problem, a variety of WAN optimization tactics can be deployed including; compressing data and local caching at various sites, accelerating the transfer protocols used on the network and changing the network topology of information flows. However, this tactical acceleration approach alone isn’t enough. Imagine a Ferrari on a freeway at top speed – it looks impressive. But in rush hour traffic, the Ferrari can’t reach even a fraction of its potential. The same is true of an acceleration system deployed on a congested corporate WAN. Acceleration is part of the battle, but it must be viewed within the wider context, which is where WAN Governance comes in.
Achieving WAN Governance
Proper planning is essential when it comes to deploying WAN Governance projects to support consolidation.
Step 1: Identifying and Classifying Applications
Which applications does your business need to function productively? Identifying the applications used, their level of criticality and their network requirements are prerequisites for efficient WAN Governance.
Step 2: Understanding the state of WAN performance
WAN Governance solutions which include visualization capabilities enable the identification of traffic flows and the quality of application performance. This means you can anticipate and quantify the impact centralization will have on the WAN before consolidation takes place.
Step 3: Using WAN Resources Based on Business Priorities
Once the application requirements of the network and business priorities are known, WAN resources can be distributed optimally. At Ipanema we have developed the Autonomic Networking System, which simply means that the network can “sense and respond without the need for human intervention.” For example, it’s like having an alarm clock that automatically wakes you up at a different time each day depending on the volume of traffic on the road in the morning to ensure you get to the office at the right time.
Step 4: Implementation of the consolidation project
When actually shutting down servers, WAN Governance features including compression, caching, and protocol acceleration can be used to support migrated applications and preserve application quality.
Step 5: Ongoing Quality Monitoring
Continuous assessment of application performance helps to maintain the Quality of User Experience (QoE) and ensures the WAN doesn’t become a barrier to consolidation projects or user productivity.
As IT budgets are reduced, only a fraction of organizations will maintain the on-site server computing model and IT resources will be increasingly centralized. This trend will continue to mean global WANs are relied upon more heavily and therefore risk becoming barriers to end user productivity as applications flight for network resources – in an uncoordinated way. We urge all IT teams to consider the impact that consolidation projects have on the network and ultimately business performance and to plan in advance to prevent them. Taking control of the WAN doesn’t mean acquiring more bandwidth – it means building in the intelligence and control needed to guarantee the performance of each application at the user level.
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