WAN Acceleration on a Global Scale

Arthur Cole

If it's true that the cloud is basically virtualization over the wide area, than it's no surprise to see many of the top platform providers jumping on the WAN optimization bandwagon, particularly when it comes to enhancing disaster recovery and continuity services.

Inside the data center, the increased use of virtual machines is driving all manner of network upgrades -- from 10 GbE and virtual I/O to network convergence and advanced optical technologies. But once you leave those confines, you're at the mercy of carrier networks where bandwidth is shared by millions if not billions of users.

That's why the focus on the WAN has been on reducing data loads while still maintaining the performance levels that users enjoy on their local networks -- a feat that, by many accounts, the leading optimization providers are awfully close to achieving.

That's part of the reason why cloud providers like NewServers are so keenly interested in WAN technologies. The company recently tapped Silver Peak Systems to provide acceleration for its Hardware-as-a-Service offering. NewServers provides what it called "bare metal devices" to large enterprises over the cloud, which means it needs a way to speed up the performance of network devices and applications dealing with high sustained data volumes. The company chose the Silver Peak NX accelerators because of their ability to overcome the limitations of TCP networks, allowing enterprise applications to scale over the cloud without having to rewrite any code.

Hitachi Data Systems had the same idea in mind for its remote disaster recovery and data replication systems, although the company went with the Riverbed Steelhead appliance. The units have been qualified for the TrueCopy Remote Replication and Universal Replicator systems, a combination that both companies say not only cuts back on the need for additional bandwidth, storage and servers, but extends greater application visibility across the entire network. And naturally, it greatly enhances recovery speeds by limiting the amount of data traversing the WAN.

And at a time when relations between IBM and Cisco appear strained due to Cisco's entrance into the server market, they are still willing partners when it comes to WAN services. The companies have brought Cisco's XRC acceleration software to the z/OS customers using the Global Mirror business continuity service. The combo extends WAN performance up to 200 km links, and adds a number of parallel processing capabilities to Cisco customers, such as support for multiple system data movers (SDMs) and parallel access volumes (PAVs). It also supports Fibre Connection (FICON) Data Access Storage Devices (DASDs) from IBM, EMC and Hitachi.

The business productivity community it also looking to enhance its WAN capabilities as it extends products over the cloud. SAP's recent acquisition of NetWeaver is a case in point, with new NetWeaver product manager Jana Richter telling SearchEnterpriseWAN recently that the company is already targeting customers interested in extending applications halfway around the world. The cloud, in fact, will put current centralization efforts to shame, placing a tremendous burden on the WAN to maintain local-area performance levels.

There are those who predict that the future of the local data center is in jeopardy -- that before too long, all IT resources will be contracted out on a utility basis, much the same way most businesses outsource energy production rather than manage and maintain their own power plants. While that vision may be a little extreme, the fact remains that WAN acceleration is one of the key growth areas for the enterprise even as the rest of the economy emerges from recession.

That means a whole lot of people see the value of wide-area services and are keen to bring them up to speed. So the demand is there. The question remains whether the suppliers can live up to the expectations.

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