Routes to WAN Optimization Begin to Multiply

    As a scarce resource, the need to optimize the use of bandwidth across a wide area network (WAN) has always been apparent. But it was only with drive to consolidate servers that WAN optimization became a critical enterprise issue. The rise of cloud computing further increases the need for WAN optimization. The good news is that all that interest is spurring a lot of innovation. The bad news is that approaches to WAN optimization are becoming more varied, which in turn is making the right choice just that much more difficult.

    At the Interop 2012 conference this week, Riverbed Technology looked to extend its WAN optimization platform by integrating VMware vSphere into Riverbed Steelhead EX model appliances. According to Miles Kelly, Riverbed senior director of product marketing, this approach uses Riverbed’s Granite technology to essentially present an image of an application running in a remote data center on top of VMware vSphere running on a Steelhead appliance. The company’s WAN optimization technology is then used to efficiently transfer data back to the data center at the block level, says Kelly. To boost the performance of its WAN optimization software, Riverbed this week also unveiled a set of higher performance Steelhead appliances.

    The most significant thing about that capability, says Kelly, is that it extends VMware’s software-defined approach to managing the data center out to the branch office in a way that significantly reduces the total cost of IT ownership. In other words, says Kelly, the IT world is now flat because virtual data centers have no boundaries.

    While Riverbed was using Interop to tout the latest Steelhead appliance, Ecessa was launching a WAN-optimization-as-a-service offering at the ITEXPO West 2012 conference. According to Brad Pearson, vice president of sales for Ecessa, WaaSWorlD makes use of a “micro appliance” deployed on the customer’s premise to manage a broad range of WAN optimization functions via the cloud. Priced around $125 a month over a three-year contract, WaaSWorlD is designed to make a rich set of WAN optimization functions affordable to organizations that typically don’t have any WAN networking expertise, says Pearson.

    But while vendors are making the case for multiple types of WAN optimization, there are those who argue that a more architectural approach to networking can solve the problem. According to Lou Najdzin, vertical development director for global enterprise and systems integrators for Equinix, network service providers have begun to use peering points as deployment hubs for the enterprise. These peering points, usually housed in carrier-neutral data centers, allow IT organizations to collocate network equipment to acquire bandwidth and improve application performance across a WAN. That approach, says Najdzin, allows IT organizations to take advantage of peering points in an age where every mobile worker is essentially now a moving branch office, as opposed to deploying WAN optimization hardware in branch offices that are hardly occupied.

    When it comes to WAN optimization, there may be no single, right choice for every IT organization. But what is for certain is that the number of WAN optimization options worth exploring appears to be increasing exponentially with each passing day.

    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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