WAN Virtualization on the Rise

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Like chocolate and peanut butter, it was probably only a matter of time before the twin developments of virtualization and WAN optimization came together.


This year's VMworld in Las Vegas will see a plethora of match-ups aimed at extending the benefits of virtualization over the wide area and further fueling the drive to consolidate as many network resources in central facilities as possible.


Many of these new systems seek to bring current application optimization technology to virtual environments, essentially extending the techniques used on desktop virtualization over the WAN.


Quest Software has released the Experience Optimization Pack, aimed at enhancing heavy graphics loads and even voice communications across Windows environments, regardless of whether you're using VMware, Microsoft, Virtual Iron or Parallels hypervisors. The system uses the Microsoft RDP protocol, which is the main reason why Citrix, which uses its own ICA protocol, is not supported.


Another new solution is the Virtual HyperIP system from NetEx. Developed for VMware ESX environments, the system is aimed at improving storage replication applications for EMC, NetApp, Symantec, IBM and other platforms by overcoming bandwidth and latency issues typically found on TCP networks. The approach here is to create a software "instance" within the ESX environment that can scale throughput from 1.5 Mbps to 800 Mbps, increasing long-haul bandwidth utilization to 90 percent. Up to 10:1 block-level compression is employed as well.


Riverbed has gone a step further and initiated full-blown integration of VMware's platform into its Steelhead appliance. The move allows users to extend its Riverbed Services Platform (RSP) to up to five remote offices without installing dedicated servers on site. The RSP approach currently provides for streaming media, print and DNS/DHCP/IPAM services, although customers will be able to place their own software modules, such as VMDKs and Windows, on the platform as well.


Still another choice is the ABEx system from Bay Microsystems, which extends the concept of live migration over the WAN. Using the company's ABEx gateway device built on proprietary silocon, enterprises will be able to migrate virtual machines at 800 MBps at distances greater than 20,000 kilometers, nearly halfway around the Earth. The company demoed the system at VMworld showing live migration using VMware's ESX Vmotion and ESX HA tools.


Extending virtualization over the WAN is clearly the next phase in the WAN optimization movement. Now, instead of improving the performance of one application at a time, you kick things up for an entire virtual environment. It probably still won't give your remote workers the same experience as those in the central office, but it should get them pretty close, and save you quite a bit of money too.