Speed is of the essence; WAN optimisation [ITP.net (United Arab Emirates)]
(ITP.net (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) WAN optimisation is not just about optimising data transfer between offices any more; it involves optimising cloud traffic and applications.
AN optimisation describes techniques and technologies aimed at reducing a company's spend, by reducing or postponing the costs of bandwidth upgrades and improving user productivity. Today, there are a range of techniques, including tweaking protocol behaviour; Layers 3 (TCP acceleration) and 7 (Application acceleration) protocols can be spoofed and modified to reduce the latency that performance-hit WANs introduce; caching, which reduces duplicate data being sent repeatedly; governance, which protects critical application flows from congestion during bursts of activity; and compression, which is designed to reduce the amount of data sent in any transfer.
"The necessity for the diversity of these different techniques is due to the myriad requirements the traffic underpinning business applications requires to operate well. For example, you could compress or cache an FTP flow, tweak the rate at which applications like SharePoint share data over the WAN and protect voice/video streams coming from low capacity branch sites. Many applications were written and tested on LANs where high bandwidth, low latency and minimal loss are prevalent," explains Dr Rupert Ogilvie, optimisation consultant, at IT optimisation expert Intergence Systems.
WAN optimisation is a solution that should allow an organisation to allocate the right values for the resources that they choose to do, and should give the people managing the network visibility of what is going on in the network, so they can make intelligent decisions on what to optimise and what not to optimise.
"WAN performance challenges can hamper many strategic IT initiatives. Limited bandwidth, long distances, and poor network quality, for example, can jeopardise key projects like offsite data replication, data centre consolidation, server/storage centralisation and cloud computing. Many companies justify an investment in WAN optimisation based on Wide Area Network (WAN) bandwidth savings. Through technologies like compression and de-duplication, WAN optimisation can reduce over 90% of traffic over the WAN, resulting in substantial application performance gains and potentially huge cost savings," says Dave Greenfield, product marketing manager, at data acceleration expert Silver Peak.
However, there are even more advantages to WAN optimisation. By overcoming latency due to chatty protocols, it extends distances between locations. By eliminating dropped and out of order packets, it ensures cost effective networks, like the internet, perform like expensive dedicated networks. And finally, WAN optimisation uses quality of service and traffic shaping to enable voice, video, data and storage to reside on a single, converged network for maximum cost savings.WAN in the cloud
As customers continue to deploy hybrid cloud models, the performance bottlenecks from using the internet, versus quality of service based point-to-point networks in deploying private clouds, increase performance bottlenecks in cloud deployments. Cloud optimisation as a service is offered to customers as a network optimisation solution between the two networks by providers.
Many WAN optimisation solutions are capable of running as virtual machines which can be placed in hosted environments or run as appliances in a public cloud.
"There are also now WAN optimisation services which are offered 'as-a-service'. These virtual devices are able to construct a private WAN between themselves and then perform standard acceleration and optimisation techniques," explains Intergence's Ogilvie.
High-level cloud computing involves the delivery of hosted services via a shared WAN such as the internet. Irrespective of the type of service deployed, all cloud computing initiatives have one thing in common, that data is centralised, while users are distributed. This places increased pressure on the network, making cloud computing susceptible to the same WAN bandwidth, latency, and quality challenges that impact other enterprise applications.
"To overcome pressures on the network, a real-time solution that has the scalability to handle the increasing volumes of data traffic, such as WAN optimisation, is critical to cloud computing services. WAN optimisation is the only way to overcome bandwidth challenges, as it reduces the amount of data sent across the WAN, prioritises key traffic, and eliminates packet retransmission with its technology. This addresses the challenges that cause critical applications to be unreliable across the WAN, and also provides real-time optimisation techniques that maximises performance, a fundamental aspect of any successful data centre initiative," says Greenfield.
By focusing on the underlying network, organisations are able to achieve maximum scalability and the flexibility needed to support cloud computing, improving network performance and end-user experience, while ensuring they get to enjoy the full business benefits it offers.
One of the popular techniques for WAN optimisation in the cloud is de-duplication, this is designed to eliminate multiple transmissions of the same information to free up bandwidth. Others have to do with optimising specific kinds of data being hauled, whether it is database transactions or VoIP for collaboration, each has a specific formula.
"Let's say you've got a cloud application provider that is bundling large packets from the local appliance to its cloud storage or cloud-based application. Well, the impact of those large packets needs to be traded off with the cloud-based VoIP provider who has signed level of service agreements and will be impacted by degradation of audio quality due to those large packets. So, there needs to be some coordination of the WAN optimisation techniques, certainly on the physical side, but most definitely on the cloud side, where transmission speeds are lower," says Henry Martinez, VP sales engineering at high availability software solutions expert Vision Solutions.Speeding up encrypted apps
Different vendors handle encrypted applications in different ways, according to Intergence. Some are unable to decrypt and accelerate internal encrypted traffic, whilst there are others capable of decrypting traffic coming from public websites and servers or dealing with signed server message blocks/common internet file systems. Understanding which set of features is right for the enterprise is an important step in ensuring that the chosen WAN optimisation solution operates as desired and gains the enterprise the biggest return on investment in the fastest period of time.
Blue Coat says the way encrypted applications are often optimised is through the client machine, the WAN optimisation device and the cloud service.
"Between the client machine and the WAN optimisation device the data is decrypted, then from that WAN optimisation device to the cloud the data is encrypted again," said Mohammad Zhaim senior systems engineer at Blue Coat.
SSL is the most common method of external encryption, which is used for web traffic. When SSL encrypted traffic enters a WAN optimisation device, it is hard to see what is inside the payload. The IT manager can perform some basic functions, like TCP acceleration and loss mitigation.
"To deduplicate or perform deeper packet functions, the WAN optimisation device must decrypt the SSL traffic. To maintain security, it must then re-encrypt the packets before sending them on their way," states Greenfield.Security converged with WAN optimisation
Bringing together security and WAN optimisation is designed to make security an enabler and allow users to access applications, rather than preventing them from accessing things that may enhance productivity. Companies around the world are finding that limiting application access is limiting the talent they can attract to their company. WAN optimisation is helping security enable things safely, according to Blue Coat.
WAN optimisation now is no longer just site to site; enterprises have applications that go across distributed networks, so there is a branch office, a mobile user, and cloud services for example. Because of this, for any company it is very important to understand where the users are going and the company should be able to classify users to see what apps they access.
"We a cloud based service that allows our WAN optimisation service to have hundreds of applications, billions of different pages, by having this we can allow the administrator or security administrator to see where the users are going, to define how much bandwidth and rate it so we can cap by application, by user," says Zhaim.
WAN optimisation devices are, by necessity, placed at critical points within an organisation's IT estate. To perform their optimisation they need to inspect in detail the packets that travel through them. Adding firewall-esque capabilities to these optimisation devices is a natural extension of the paradigm, according to Silver Peak.
"Currently WAN optimisation vendors are able to block undesirable protocols such as P2P or traffic on unsecured ports. Some are also capable of decrypting SSL connections from websites or servers using HTTPS which could potentially deliver a malicious payload to an end user. Others offer security appliances which are designed to tightly integrate their Optimisation offerings for a fast and seamless service," explains Ogilvie.
WAN optimisation vendors now provide a virtual environment in branch office appliances to run branch office IT services or security services. These allow instances of security software to run on these instances and provide embedded security features to branch office users.
"Vendors are continuously adding additional security features such as network behaviour analysis, VA and NAC services onto these WAN optimisation appliances as well,"says Hatem Bamatraf, executive vice president, Enterprise at regional telecoms operator, du.Five tips on…
Choosing the right WAN optimisation vendor
• Scale: How easily can the products scale from small office to large data centres? Are the same features available in both for a unified solution?
• Virtual: What is the company's virtual strategy? Do they have a full range of virtual products? Do the virtual products perform the same as physical? Is there an upgrade path from one to the other?
• Pricing: Are various pricing options available to meet your needs? For example, perpetual pricing lets your purchase the solution outright. Subscription pricing lets you pay as you go. Utility pricing is ideal for cloud.
• Ease of install: Is the product easy to use? Can you download and trial for free? Can you configure policies easily? Is there a strategy from the company for software defined capabilities ie the ability to optimise from within virtualisation management tools?
• Range of applications: Does the product optimise all IP traffic, or just a handful of TCP applications? Are the same features available on both? Are plug-ins required for optimising individual applications? How often do these need to be upgraded.
Source: Silver PeakWAN optimisation benefits
WAN optimisation can deliver massive improvements to a wide range of their top IT initiatives:
• Accelerate application performance up to 50X, increasing business productivity
• Consolidate in the branch and data centre, and see a six-month payback
• Optimise file sharing, web, email and even voice video — all at the same time
• Leverage cloud economics without compromise
• Protect data more completely, with less cost and effort
• Solve problems up to 83% faster
Source: Taj Elkhayat, General Manager Riverbed, MENA
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