Miles Kelly is senior product marketing director for Steelhead WAN optimization appliances and Granite appliances at Riverbed Technology.
Convergence started in the late 1990s when Internet Protocol (IP) became the "de facto" standard for communication. Today, convergence means streamlined voice, video, and storage delivery via an enterprise network. Hyperconvergence is the predicted future state of an enterprise network that follows the adoption of modern computing initiatives including consolidation, cloud computing, mobility (including Bring Your Own Device -BYOD), and unified communications. The hyperconverged network not only presents new opportunities for end users and IT, but also creates new challenges for network and application performance and management.
One of the major challenges of hyperconvergence is the ability for a network to scale to meet the surge of end users, devices, and overall network traffic. In a research note titled “Plan Now For the Hyperconverged Enterprise Network” authored by Bjarne Munch, David A. Willis and published in May 2012, Gartner predicts that by 2014, up to 80 percent of end-user traffic will move to the wide area network (WAN). WAN optimization with quality of service (QoS) is increasingly becoming a must-have technology to allow networks to thrive in a hyperconverged world, delivering the speed end users expect and the scale and control network professionals require.
Choosing the Right Technology Investments
When faced with poor network performance, many organizations re-cable or upgrade bandwidth as a first plan of action. However, bandwidth upgrades can be costly and time-consuming, and do not easily scale or ensure the necessary performance for business-critical traffic. As a result, more organizations are choosing to deploy WAN optimization solutions that not only provide a scalable framework that can easily integrate with an enterprise’s existing infrastructure, but also ensure a consistent end-user experience. As a result, employees are more productive and collaborative with efficient access to critical business applications.
Choosing the right WAN optimization solution can be challenging, especially due to data growth and more end users distributed over greater distances. There is no one-size-fits-all option. And a good investment decision is one that meets an organization’s needs today and tomorrow. Key considerations for choosing the right WAN optimization technology include form factor, scalability, integration, support, and value to name a few. Below is each in detail:
- Form factors – With hybrid IT environments, organizations may need a wider range of WAN optimization form factors. It is not uncommon today for organizations to be using a combination of physical data centers, public cloud services, and a virtualized private cloud while having to support remote and mobile workers. Such organizations require a comprehensive WAN optimization solution comprised of physical appliances, cloud editions, virtual editions, and mobile editions. Regardless of selected form factor(s), a good solution will easily deliver performance benefits on a holistic level.
- Scalability – WAN optimization solutions should also be able to scale in response to business growth, including adding more offices and employees or increasing capacity in a private or public cloud. As reliance on the WAN continues and IT environments become more complex, such scalability is critical to meet an organization’s changing needs.
- Multi-tiered optimization- Multi-tiered optimization that spans deduplication, application optimization, transport optimization, and traffic prioritization is the only way to truly maximize performance gains:
- Deduplication removes redundancies from data transmissions
- Application specific optimizations overcome the chattiness of certain application protocols such as CIFS (Common Internet File System) or MAPI (Messaging Application Program Interface)
- Transport optimization technology should optimize traffic across multiple transport protocols, including both TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol)
- Quality of Service (QoS) prioritization ensures fair access for mission-critical applications during periods of congestion
- Strategic partners – An often-overlooked consideration are the strategic technology partnerships established by WAN optimization vendors. Choosing a vendor with strategic relationships such as cloud providers, application or storage vendors can offer the tightest integration for higher levels of performance but also provide the best levels of support to help enterprises deploy, manage, and maximize their investment.
- Business value and ROI – According to IDC, organizations can achieve ROI in as little as seven months by choosing WAN optimization solutions over major bandwidth upgrades. Even more compelling, WAN optimization can result in up to 100 times faster access to critical applications, such as Microsoft SharePoint. That kind of performance improvement results in superlative value for organizations as employees are more productive, collaborative, and efficient, and customers are taken care of in a timely manner. Such as the case with a major retailer who recently realized productivity gains from a WAN optimization deployment that translated to $35 million in increased revenue and a 68-day payback period on their investment.
As hyperconvergence comes to the modern enterprise, WAN optimization is becoming essential to managing the corresponding explosion in end users, data, and devices. A well planned, strategic WAN optimization solution deployment will allow organizations to extend optimization to every user, application, and location in the world.
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