WAN Optimization: On Cloud Nine

|November 7, 2014 0
The market is seeing a proliferation of players offering the now commoditized technology

Vikas Garg

WAN Optimization changed the way the WAN worked, introducing hardware that added compression and optimization to the data being transmitted over the WAN, improving the efficiency of connections as well as reducing the amount of data being transferred – reducing both the need for higher bandwidth connections and combating latency issues.

Changing WAN Optimization realities

                                 

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The WAN optimization market is, however, now seeing a slowdown in terms of growth. According to Infonetics Research, in 2013 WAN optimization appliance sales fell 13% from 2012 figures, a trend that has been continuing for the past 2-3 years. As bandwidth costs keep falling and application design improves, expensive WAN optimization appliances are suddenly not as high on enterprise budgets as they used to be. Also, the market is seeing a proliferation of players offering the now commoditized technology in different shapes and sizes. Even with virtual options, sites still need hardware in place to run these appliances. Other key trends include –

– Shifting focus from CAPEX to OPEX for IT – As usage of cloud based systems increases, enterprise IT budgeting is moving from capex to opex based models.

– Improvements in Internet based connectivity – Enterprises are also shifting from expensive MPLS based WAN connections and deploying high bandwidth Internet connections; as the quality improves and cost falls, this trend will only increase. Also, internet connections are easily available on short notice in most geographies.

– Development of new network efficiencies with software – Software vendors are becoming increasingly aware of network efficiency, and new protocols such as SMB 3.0 along with better programming are improving network performance for applications.

Recent happenings in the WAN optimization industry help to validate the waning preference for hardware-based WAN optimization. A leading vendor recently announced a restructuring exercise to optimize their operations in the face of poor revenue outlook.

WAN Optimization isn’t out of the IT equation yet – but the mode of delivery must change. An optimization model that demands heavy CAPEX investment simply does not fit with enterprise IT realities, where increasingly, costs are being moved to an OPEX model. The ideal solution would be somewhere in between; a hybrid that brings together the best aspects of the Internet, MPLS and the cloud while subscribing to newer concepts such as Software Defined Networking and Network Functions Virtualization.

Hybrid Networks

Which brings us to what we believe will drive enterprise WANs in the future – hybrid networks. Built in the cloud, these networks are easy to deploy, are flexible enough to cater to changing enterprise demands and provide quick global availability. They also, like MPLS, are private and therefore independent of the Internet. As with other cloud-based offerings, they ask for zero capex, allow quick provisioning and ease of use and use a subscription-based pay-as-you-go pricing model.

Hybrid networks would enjoy several key advantages over the traditional connection options (MPLS and IP VPN) –

  • Better than IP VPN because…No more Internet/public network congestion issues

Stable latency and low packet loss, as the network consists of private links between dedicated points of presence (POPs)

  • Better than MPLS because…Faster deployment (as cloud-based hybrid networks have pre-provisioned bandwidth available)

Enables intelligent network functionality such as QoS, WAN and protocol optimization, bursting and de-duplication/compression to be moved into the network grid (POPs), eliminating the need for on premise appliances.

According to InformationWeek, as far back as 2010, over 50% of IT managers stated that their network already used WAN optimization. Even back then, they recognized WAN optimization as a useful technology, but wanted more effective ways to apply it.

Hybrid networks are “that” way. With IT today, everyone prefers cloud based systems that give flexible, dependable performance with minimal maintenance fuss. When it comes to cloud services, nearly 45% of IT leaders would like to or already run their company in the cloud1. The cloud-based optimized hybrid network allows for what is probably the most effective way to implement WAN optimization, with zero capex combining with a low on-site footprint making maintenance a minimal concern for IT. It doesn’t even end there – there are other features of interest:

On demand bandwidth bursting – Unlike MPLS, which is fixed bandwidth, the hybrid network is able to be flexible and scale up or scale down availability on the fly with a simple phone call or email. Earlier, the Internet was the only means for being flexible when responding to business needs.

No more upgrade/renewal hassles – Since the software stack is on the cloud and centralized in the network core, you never need to upgrade. All new features and improvements are automatically available to you.

Another factor to be considered is the utility of the system; traditional MPLS networks cannot easily enable connections to public cloud systems such as Amazon AWS and Office 365. Even if they can, the connections cannot really be optimized without significant hardware investments.

One Network for the Enterprise

IT management is currently looking for answers for providing access to multiple information and application sources – cloud, on-premise and remote – while improving performance with optimization. It is a difficult adventure.

With an optimized hybrid network, not only can data transfers between multiple offices be optimized but access to cloud services can also be accelerated. This model allows for cloud services to be accessed as if they were another remote office and with the optimization enabled, it is like having the cloud application on your LAN.

The days of multiple network technologies creating a veritable melting pot network that IT has to somehow manage are gone. It is time for a network that can enable effective WAN communication, application and content delivery as well as cloud access-all in a single unified solution, while being available as an on demand service with rapid deployment and private connectivity.

The author is VP operations and technology, Aryaka Networks

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