Now that most enterprises have taken at least rudimentary steps toward the cloud, the need for dramatically improved WAN optimization is becoming painfully clear.
And while it may seem that past investments in WAN may suffice for the smattering of cloud services and resources that most organizations are engaged in at the moment, it doesn't take much imagination to see current platforms' growing deficiencies as more traffic transitions between internal and external infrastructure.
Part of the problem is that most enterprises have built WAN optimization infrastructure to suit individual applications as needs arose. As Cindy Borovick, IDC's vice president for Enterprise Data Center Networks explained, this may have been prudent in the days of static data silos, but the dynamism of the cloud coupled with Big Data requirements call for a more network-centric approach that can accommodate more diverse requirements. It's part of the reason the firm expects the WAN optimization market to hit $1.3 billion by the end of the year.
This will become increasingly important as the cloud transitions from mere data and applications to more platform and infrastructure services, according to Silver Peak CTO David Hughes. Once you cross the bridge to virtual desktop infrastructure, platform as a service (PaaS) and the like, WAN stability will become as vital as server and storage health is today. That means new network-centric WAN platforms need to address everything from packet loss and bandwidth constraints to real-time optimization services.
Once you start talking about network-centric anything, however, the name Cisco Systems invariably comes up. And true to form, the company is on point with plans for an integrated cloud offering that combines WAN optimization with both integrated services routers (ISRs) and aggregate services routers (ASRs) for quick and easy deployment into private and hybrid cloud environments. The company views this as an extension of its unified computing system in that it helps transition enterprises away from hardware and infrastructure toward platforms and services.
But while all this is going on in the WAN itself, key support technologies will need to be upgraded to handle larger and more diverse data volumes. Deduplication, for example, has been a tremendous boon to WAN optimization so far, but it tends to increase latency as traffic increases. However, Infineta Systems says it has a fix in the newly patented massively parallel algorithm that forms the heart of its data mobility switch. The system lessens overall traffic footprints at multi-GB speeds while adding only a few microseconds of processing latency.
Too often, enterprises look to new technologies as a means to provide more of the same: the same storage infrastructure, only bigger; the same network infrastructure, only faster. In the cloud, the term "game-changing" truly applies because not only are you getting more of what you need, but it is structured in a completely different way. So when it comes to technologies like WAN optimization, the focus should not be not simply be on more and better, but different, as well.
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.