WAN Optimization: Blending Services and Appliances

Arthur Cole
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Application Acceleration in the Clouds

Acceleration technologies can dramatically improve the performance of emerging cloud, SaaS and other Internet-based content and applications.

There's no doubt that WAN optimization has been one of the more significant enterprise developments over the past decade. Not only has it brought remote offices and even partner/client infrastructures closer together, but it has actually helped enable cloud computing, resource centralization and other cost-saving efforts.

For even moderate-sized enterprises then, the question becomes not whether to deploy WAN optimization, but how. Fortunately, even that question is becoming easier to answer now that the two main approaches, hardware-based appliances and software services, are starting to come together.

Tim Greene over at Network World pointed out recently that even systems that pride themselves on either the service model or the appliance model have quietly begun adopting both approaches. A key example is cloud-based provider Aryaka, which recently unveiled a branch-office device aimed at improving performance. You don't need the unit to run Aryaka's platform, but it certainly helps, particularly at smaller sites that are served by low-bandwidth connections.

On the hardware side, you have firms like Infineta Systems adding a cloud-style pay-as-a-go option for its Data Mobility Switch (DMS). The company says its Data Migration Accelerator (DMA) can speed up data center consolidation, cloud migration and application deployment some 80 percent, dramatically cutting costs and avoiding long-term support commitments for expensive hardware.

At the same time, traditional appliance platforms are going virtual, providing for lower costs and greater flexibility when designing optimized WAN connections. Silver Peak Systems recently launched the VX-Xpress system, a free virtual appliance designed to provide basic site-to-site acceleration for entry-level customers. The system is application, protocol and software version agnostic and works with the leading hypervisors. The company reports more than 3,500 downloads over the past two months.

Riverbed Technology, meanwhile, is looking to broaden compatibility with the wider cloud universe by adopting more openness in its platform. The company recently joined the OpenStack community dedicated to foster open, interoperable cloud environments. Riverbed has brought its virtual application delivery controller (vADC) to the table, offering acceleration services across public, private and hybrid clouds.

Increasing the deployment options for WAN optimization is one of the quickest ways to drive the technology down-market. This not only broadens the user base for the platform providers, but it helps the data industry at large by reducing the load on public networks that are increasingly being called upon to provide cloud computing and other services.

It's almost the opposite of the usual paradigm in that the more people get on board, the better off we all are.

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