For IT networking professionals, there is no such thing as too fast. So it's no wonder that so many solutions for both local and wide area infrastructure focus on software-based acceleration of data packets across often complicated network architectures.
Optimization is a cheaper solution
Part of this is simple economics. It's much cheaper to deploy an acceleration platform than to add bandwidth, and most systems feature advanced management techniques other tools aimed at driving network simplicity and efficiency.
Of course, acceleration can take many forms, ranging from application acceleration and WAN optimization platforms to advanced technologies aimed at minimizing network overhead. In the latter category, one of the newest solutions is LSI's Axxia AXP3420 card. The device uses a standard PCIe slot to offload network functions like app recognition and security, allowing both server and networking resources to focus on their core responsibilities. The unit also provides tools like deep packet inspection and traffic management, plus its own application development kit allowing enterprises to customize control and monitoring functions and enable the creation of virtual private networks.
Data acceleration is also at the heart of new software defined networking (SDN) solutions from firms like Adara Networks. The company's Full Stack Engine seeks to decouple physical infrastructure from traffic management software, which is intended to overcome many of the delivery limitations caused by installed logic on legacy hardware.
With SDN, the company promises new levels of scalability across enterprise and service provider networks, as well as virtualization of wide-area and inter-domain links and simplified distribution of orchestration and other services.
Taking BYOD into account ... of course
These days, most enterprise network architectures are having to deal not only with traffic from traditional desktop-server-storage architectures, but from legions of mobile devices as well. So it's only natural that companies specializing in each realm would work together on common acceleration platforms.
Network reporting developer Plixer International, for example, recently added Enterasys' Mobile IAM solution to the Scrutinizer 9.0 analysis tool to accommodate the needs of new BYOD deployments. The combo integrates Mobile IAM's device login management tools with Plixer's NetFlow traffic analysis to improve both application and VoIP services. Through advanced network utilization analysis, the platform enables more efficient use of available bandwidth and more efficient handling of critical data and applications.
Carrier providers are also working overtime to improve enterprise acceleration services. Hughes Network Systems recently bolstered its converged broadband architecture (CBA) with ActiveBonding, a high-capacity networking service designed to facilitate application delivery across distributed architectures. The system provides intelligent load balancing and other techniques designed to optimize wide-area performance, and works to overcome the performance variations present in multilink broadband operations by linking them under a single, high-capacity umbrella. The company says this should enable advanced services like guest Wi-Fi, remote video training and digital signage.
Like the bionic man of old, modern networks are being made faster, stronger, better. Upgrades to physical plant will certainly move the process along swiftly, but software-driven solutions can produce dramatic results of their own and usually at far less cost.
Arthur Cole covers networking and the data center for IT Business Edge. He has served as editor of numerous publications covering everything from audio/video production and distribution, multimedia and the Internet to video gaming.