The more enterprises come to rely on cloud infrastructure to handle increasing data loads, the more pressure they place on external wide area networks. This isn't rocket science, of course, as data tends to populate available resources as quickly as they become available.
This is primarily why interest in WAN optimization technology is so high these days, as enterprises not only seek to improve cloud performance but maintain strong data connections to branch offices and even partners or clients without the time and expense of major network upgrades.
A key requirement will be the need to manage not just data flows across wide area networks, but applications as well. Infineta Systems, for example, has added tools like Flowtune to its Data Mobility Switch, which utilizes dynamic traffic management rather than normal packet removal to prevent conflicts. The company says this provides vastly superior performance for critical applications like backup and replication while maintaining high-speed performance for secondary apps running simultaneously. At the same time, enterprises can reduce their dependence on costly point-to-point links and utilize a greater portion of their overall WAN capacity by reducing the amount of bandwidth needed to buffer multiple applications.
Meanwhile, vendors like Talari Networks are touting their "application-aware" platforms as they key to superior performance in highly distributed environments. The company points to recent research it sponsored from the Aberdeen Group that said these "best in class" operations offer the best chance of achieving a 90 percent or better transaction completion rate and enjoy the highest levels of user satisfaction, particularly when applied to aggregated WAN infrastructure consisting of MPLS, corporate Internet links and broadband networks over coax, fiber and wireless plants.
Organizations that want to get closer to their customers have no choice but to beef up their branch office capabilities, according to Exinda, and that will require paying extra attention to the edge. To that end, the company has devised a new set of application assurance tools called Exinda Edge that are designed to foster policy-based service management and enhanced performance visibility to improve branch functionality. The system leverages the company's 360 Dynamic Policy Engine that provides user, application and contextual profiling, as opposed to standard IP monitoring, in order to optimize performance according to usage and business patterns. The company says this allows businesses to base branch application performance around strategic business needs, rather than raw data handling and throughput.
At the same time, Cisco has packaged WAN optimization into its Cloud Connected Solution where it can work closely with advanced routing techniques and secure software and service packages designed to improve data and application migration to the cloud. The platform features the company's Application Visibility and Control (AVC) software, as well as the new AppNav architecture that integrates the company's Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) appliances into a single resource pool where they can be managed by a central controller. The idea is to enable a highly scalable application deployment model the continues to reap the benefits of app acceleration and performance visibility as cloud resources become larger and more complex.
In the 1990s (ancient times for some of you, I'm sure), the popular catchphrase was "The network is the new computer," a nod to the fact that the Internet had vastly increased the performance of the typical PC. The same paradigm is playing out again, although this time it's on the enterprise level: "The WAN is now the new data center."
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.