Amid all the predictions about 2010 being a banner year for virtualization and cloud computing, there is little consideration given to the impact these technologies will have on wide area networking.
But as the enterprise begins to port more applications and data onto both public and private cloud infrastructures, it will become increasingly obvious that optimizing the WAN will be a key factor in ensuring the kinds of performance levels that users have come to expect from enterprise IT.
That's part of the reason market analysts are expecting WAN optimization to kick into high gear in the coming year, along with the rest of the networking segment. Infonetics Research noted that sales of optimization equipment jumped a healthy 12 percent in the third quarter, breaking a string of poor results. Top vendors like Blue Coat, Cisco and Riverbed led the rebound, which coincided with single-digit growth in both the router and Ethernet switch markets.
According to a recent survey by Expand Networks, virtualization and cloud computing will be the key drivers for WAN optimization in the coming year. The company reports that a recent survey of IT executives found that 75 percent are planning new virtualization deployments next year, with two-thirds of those saying WAN optimization would improve system performance. A slightly smaller figure was planning on cloud deployments, but the vast majority would combine it with WAN optimization services if the price was right.
Such services are already taking hold around the world, even in developing markets. Riverbed Technology recently inked a deal with Hong Kong's CPCNet to form the backbone of the TrueConnect Accelerator service for enterprises in Greater China. The initial service will cover applications like CIFS or NFS file sharing, e-mail, HTTP and most popular databases like Oracle and SQL. There is also a Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPSL) component that can be used for IP VPN applications like VoIP and video-conferencing.
Companies like Certeon are also busy tailoring their platforms for the day when the need for WAN optimization in cloud architectures is apparent to everybody. That could mean integrating optimization directly into the virtualization stack so that each virtual machine will be able to meet performance levels regardless of whether it is getting data from the cloud, the SAN or local storage. Naturally, proprietary hardware and software won't cut it.
The need for a highly optimized wide area environment goes hand-in-hand with the cloud concept of breaking down the data center walls in the quest for infinite scalability. A world of limitless resources, dynamic load balancing and pay-for-only-what-you-use models is certainly likely -- but it can only happen if throughput outside the data center matches what's available inside.