New Directions in WAN Optimization

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To say that networking is a crucial aspect of IT operations is quickly becoming an understatement. It's more accurate to say that networking is the crucial aspect of IT operations.

In an age where unlimited compute and storage resources are available at the click of a mouse, data productivity will increasingly be measured by how well it can move from place to place, not by how much any one facility can handle at a given time.

Naturally, this new reality is placing tremendous pressure on wide area infrastructure. As enterprises seek to streamline their data center holdings, the need to broaden their connectivity to distant resources through more robust WAN architectures is becoming paramount.

IT Business Insider's Jeff Merron points out that large organizations like HP and the state of Texas are making dramatic cuts in the number of in-house data centers even while their user bases are becoming more distributed. Traditionally, this has meant simply provisioning wider and wider WAN connectivity between data centers. However, advances in data compression and deduplication continue to provide more elegant, and cheaper, alternatives.

Silver Peak, for example, has kicked the cost-containment race into high gear with a free WAN optimization appliance called the VX-Xpress. Aimed at entry-level users, the VX-X is based on the company's Virtual Acceleration Open Architecture (VXOA) with support for up to 4 Mbps connectivity and 8,000 simultaneous sessions. For larger organizations, the company has released the VRX-8 appliance, which supports up to 1 Gbps and 256,000 sessions - a 20-fold improvement over current designs.

At the same time, new cloud-based solutions are hitting the scene. Optimization and app acceleration provider Aryaka recently joined cloud provider OpSource's Validated Cloud Solution program to provide a multi-enterprise IaaS optimization platform with real-time, global service. The companies say that with the cloud as the backbone, they can eliminate many of the integration and implementation hassles that plague traditional optimization solutions.

Still, even the cloud relies largely on terrestrial networks to maintain connectivity. And as we've seen in recent weeks, particularly on the East Coast, these are susceptible to disruption during earthquakes, hurricanes and other events. That's why Expand Networks is turning toward satellite optimization as a means to keep the data flowing when the wires go down. The company has added compression algorithms to its Expand Accelerator platform to deliver up to 1,000 percent more capacity over satellite links. It has also incorporated satellite capability to its ExpandView monitoring solution and WAFS distributed file server module.

Data loads are increasing at a relentless pace, so it's inevitable that enterprises that have yet to encounter wide area constraints will do so in the near future. Networking has always been about shoring up the weakest link in the chain. Now that data environments can extend around the world, the weakest link will likely be outside the data center.