It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that increased reliance on the cloud, mobile devices and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) connectivity will place greater pressure on the Wide Area Network (WAN). If that is the case, then, why are so few enterprises thinking about improving WAN infrastructure and services, even as they rush headlong into the anywhere, anytime future?
This disconnect is quickly becoming one of the worst-kept secrets in IT. According to some recent surveys, nearly 70 percent of enterprise executives expect to see WAN bandwidth demand increase in the coming year, but only 15 percent plan to add any WAN capacity at all. This "bandwidth gap," in the words of Adaptiva CTO Deepak Kumar, will only expand as data environments move away from traditional infrastructure, ultimately inhibiting the ability to converge IT infrastructure onto globally distributed architectures.
WAN optimization and service providers are keenly aware of the heavy role they will play in the coming years. Aryaka’s latest State of the Global Enterprise WAN report noted that upwards of 40 percent of traffic these days is HTTP or HTTPS, a strong indication that users are increasingly turning to web-based applications and services as part of their daily routine. Also telling is the fact that 11 percent of organizations now use accelerated WAN services, most likely for mission-critical applications.
Better app performance remains one of the top drivers of WAN optimization and acceleration programs, according to Talari Networks, but many organizations wind up impeding their own progress by not prioritizing applications properly. Without an application hierarchy, the WAN has no way of knowing what to push through immediately and what can wait. It’s no surprise, then, that more than 85 percent of IT executives say their current WAN infrastructure negatively impacts critical app performance on a regular basis, with the average business experiencing 14 WAN-related incidents a year.
Of course, he who builds a better mousetrap usually has customers lining up at the door, which explains the steady stream of advanced WAN solutions entering the channel. Citrix Systems, for example, says its new appliance, the CloudBridge 2000WS, is tailor-made for branch offices looking to increase cloud accessibility. The device integrates advanced WAN optimization techniques with a pair of virtual Windows servers that put applications closer to remote workers. In this way, the branch isn’t left behind while the home office works to incorporate advanced cloud services and architectures. In the end, this enables a more evenly distributed IT infrastructure.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, there is no shortage of bandwidth when it comes to accommodating worldwide traffic loads, massive as they are. The challenge is for the enterprise to devise a more flexible WAN infrastructure for itself – one that can handle the ups and downs of normal data activity, plus burgeoning cloud and mobile applications, without breaking the budget.
For the most part, then, the WAN already appears to be up to the challenge posed by the rapid transition from data center to cloud-based data environments. All enterprise executives need to do is put the key elements in place for their own organizations. But it would be wise to do this sooner rather than later, considering that the experimental phase of cloud computing is coming to an end and deployment in earnest is likely to move very quickly.
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