Cahit Jay Akin, is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Mushroom Networks, a privately held company based in San Diego, CA, providing broadband products and solutions for a range of Internet applications.
The emergence of the WAN transformed the entire concept of the branch offices. It enabled scattered real estate agents, retail store fronts and bank branches to operate in perfect synchrony with the headquarter office, making distance from the data center a non-issue.
Then came the deluge. WANs today face an unprecedented variety and volume of traffic generated by cloud computing, virtualization, big data and globalization combined with millions of new devices and communications technologies – from smart phones to VoIP. As a result, the WAN infrastructure that branch offices have come to depend upon is stressed to the brink, threatening distributed access to data and applications and day-to-day productivity. It’s a problem that can’t be ignored – in part because data volumes are going nowhere but up and they are not getting less mission critical either.
So, what’s the IT team to do short of shelling out for a premium service upgrade? Here are three solutions to consider.
1. Reconfigure the plumbing (virtually)
WAN virtualization offers a way to better manage physical resources to deliver better performance. WAN virtualization adds a layer of intelligence that abstracts ISP transports so that the various ISP connections can be aggregated into one fast and reliable WAN connection.
More effective traffic management and QoS are also possible with WAN virtualization, converting real WAN resources like existing private WANs and various Internet WAN links like DSL, cable, fiber and wireless into virtual IP pipes.
The Broadband Bonding approach to WAN virtualization lets network managers bundle connections into fast connections with better redundancy and reliability to preserve IP connectivity even if a link fails. Because it uses existing infrastructure, this is an especially cost-effective way for firms with branch offices to beef up their networks.
There are also network service providers who will be providing managed services that for now bond multiple, similar lines such as DSL to enhance bandwidth to distributed locations.
2. Redistribute the payload
While WAN virtualization focuses on the network fabric itself, network managers can also streamline the data payloads themselves using WAN optimization. This demand-focused approach uses three tactics to speed transmission and minimize traffic.
- Caching is ideal for businesses that transmit similar but large files between offices, e.g. a design firm working with large design files that, day-to-day, are only modified slightly. To reduce traffic demands, a firm can cache the original file at the receiver’s side and then only send along parts of the file that have been changed (think backup protocols).
- Conventional compression works well for situations where the data traffic is not encrypted or is not already compressed.
- De-duplication reduces transfer of redundant data across the WAN by sending references instead of actual data.
3. Reshape your traffic
Finally, there’s traffic shaping, which prioritizes protocols and applications to optimize delivery of traffic to application servers in a more efficient manner. It depends on transaction prediction to anticipate upcoming requests and bundles them to reduce "chattiness" back and forth.
Of course, traffic monitoring in general is also essential. Review your business applications according to bandwidth consumption and watch for non-work-related activities that should be eliminated from the pipeline.
As device, application and user needs continue to change, businesses will need these kinds of cost-effective ways to keep the data center, HQ and branch office users all working in harmony. These options are worth exploring and ideally combining to keep bandwidth issues from compromising your business.
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