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The ABCD’s of WAN Optimization

Posted by bobegilbert on January 20, 2010

ABCD's of WAN Optimization

What is the first thing you think of when the term "WAN optimization" is discussed?  Believe it or not, the majority of IT professionals continue to associate WAN optimization technology solely to environments where bandwidth challenges exist.  While optimizing bandwidth is indeed one of the key value propositions of WAN optimization, there are a number of additional core value propositions that in many cases present an even higher value than bandwidth savings alone.

What are these areas that WAN optimization impacts?  Instead of going down the confusing path of going over the specific areas in detail, I'll try to make it as simple as ABC or in this case, ABCD.  A for Application Acceleration, B for Bandwidth Optimization, C for Consolidation, and D for Disaster Recovery.

Application Acceleration

Let's face it.  Most business applications have been developed with the local area network in mind.  Applications ranging from Exchange to Lotus Notes to web-based applications like SharePoint, SAP, or Oracle all perform well when clients access servers over a low latency, high bandwidth LAN.  The challenge is that as soon as you extend these applications to the WAN or increase the distance between the client and the server, application performance is poor and in some cases, up to 100 times slower.  Operations that took seconds now take minutes.  The ability to provide LAN-like performance for applications that branch office and mobile workers rely on is arguably the cornerstone value proposition of WAN optimization.   

Bandwidth Optimization

As I mentioned previously, overcoming bandwidth challenges continues to be one of the key reasons to deploy WAN optimization.  Contrary to popular belief, bandwidth is not free and in fact can be very expensive.  WAN optimization essentially eliminates all the data redundancy and the result is that between 65% to 95% of traffic is eliminated from WANs.  The result is that congested links become uncongested, smaller links perform as if they were bigger, and the need to upgrade bandwidth is deferred or eliminated altogether.  Very simple to understand ROI.

Consolidation / Cloud Computing

We have seen the pendulum swing from a centralized IT infrastructure during the 70s and 80's with central mainframes to a massive build out of a distributed IT infrastructure during the 90's where 6 million plus branch offices have been equipped with local servers.  Over the past decade or so there has been a big move back to the centralized, consolidated model where organizations want to simplify their IT and cut costs by consolidating expensive to manage branch office equipment to central data centers.  Relatively recently, we are also seeing an increased interest in moving from this private cloud data center centralized environment to a public cloud environment where infrastructure is hosted by 3rd party vendors like Amazon, Microsoft, etc.  While consolidation obviously makes sense, the challenge is performance.  When you move your file servers, mail servers, and app servers thousands of miles away from your users, performance takes a beating.  WAN optimization becomes vitamin or or the pain killer for consolidation projects.  As a vitamin, WAN optimization is the essential enabler for projects where consolidation has yet to take place.  Replace branch office servers with a WAN optimization device and users in most cases won't notice a difference, even though their server is now removed from their LAN to a data center that is thousands of miles away.  WAN optimization can also be the pain killer for organizations that have already consolidated, but have performance issues.  WAN optimization is essential for the success of any consolidation project.

Disaster Recovery

One of the often misunderstood values of WAN optimization is the impact on disaster recovery and business continuity.  The value is quite simple to understand.  WAN optimization dramatically reduces the time it takes to perform data backup operations either between the branch office and the data center or between primary and backup data centers.   For example, SnapMirror operations are in many cases 30 to 50 times faster.  Operations that take 30 hours to replicate terabytes of data can be reduced to just a couple of hours.  The impact here is that organizations that are having a hard time meeting their RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective) need WAN optimization.  Shorter backup and recovery times combined with the fact that you can perform backup and replication operations more often, results in a much better RTO and RPO.

There you have it.  Understanding the true value of WAN Optimization is as easy as ABCD.  Thanks to Andy Rogerson at Riverbed for coming up with this clever methodology for remembering how WAN optimization impacts IT initiatives.  I would also like to add that not all WAN optimization products are the same.  Riverbed is widely recognized as the market leader with a best of breed WAN optimization suite that has been deployed by more than 7000 customers to address application acceleration, bandwidth optimization, consolidation, and disaster recovery initiatives.

3 Responses to “The ABCD’s of WAN Optimization”

  1. Brilliant! Now it is easier to remember. The most helpful I believe is the disaster recovery. I really hate it when the unexpected happens.

  2. Thanks for making this site possible. I really needed this, it will be reading much more even in the near future. You could also interview Mr. Larry Chaffin about wan acceleration, seems he has been right for awhile right now.

  3. I decided to comment on the scope of this articles attempt to clarify several opinions. Social networking is discussing this post along with friends and colleagues.

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