By Christo Briedenhann, Country Manager of Riverbed Technology, Africa
Convergence started in the late 1990s when Internet Protocol (IP) became the de facto standard for communication. Today, convergence means streamlined voice, video, and storage delivery via an enterprise network. Hyperconvergence is the predicted future state of an enterprise network that follows the adoption of modern computing initiatives including consolidation, cloud computing, mobility (including BYOD), and unified communications. The hyperconverged network not only presents new opportunities for end users and IT, but also creates new challenges for network and application performance and management.
One of the major challenges of hyperconvergence is the ability for a network to scale to meet the surge of end users, devices, and overall network traffic. In a research note titled “Plan Now For the Hyperconverged Enterprise Network” authored by Bjarne Munch, David A. Willis and published in May 2012, Gartner predicts that by 2014, up to 80% of end-user traffic will move to the wide area network (WAN). WAN optimisation with quality of service (QoS) is increasingly becoming a must-have technology to allow networks to thrive in a hyperconverged world, delivering the speed end users expect and the scale and control network professionals require.
Choosing the right technology investments
When faced with bandwidth limitations, many organisations re-cable or upgrade bandwidth as a first plan of action. However, bandwidth upgrades can be costly, time-consuming, and do not easily scale or ensure the necessary performance for business critical traffic. As a result, more organisations are choosing to deploy WAN optimisation solutions that not only provide a scalable framework that can easily integrate with an enterprise’s existing infrastructure, but also ensure a consistent end-user experience. As a result, employees are more productive and collaborative with efficient access to critical business applications.
Choosing the right WAN optimisation solution can be challenging, especially due to data growth and more end users distributed over greater distances. There is no one-size-fits-all option. And a good investment decision is one that meets an organisation’s needs today and tomorrow. Key considerations for choosing the right WAN optimisation technology include form factor, scalability, integration, support, and value to name a few. Below is each in detail:
With hybrid IT environments, organisations may need a wider range of WAN optimisation form factors. It is not uncommon today for organisations to be using a combination of physical data centers, public cloud services, and a virtualised private cloud while having to support remote and mobile workers. Such organisations require a comprehensive WAN optimisation solution comprised of physical appliances, cloud editions, virtual editions, and mobile editions. Regardless of selected form factor(s), a good solution will easily deliver performance benefits on a holistic level.
WAN optimisation solutions should also be able to scale in response to business growth, including adding more offices and employees or increasing capacity in a private or public cloud. As reliance on the WAN continues and IT environments become more complex, such scalability is critical to meet an organisation’s changing needs.
Multi-tiered optimisation that spans deduplication, application optimisation, transport optimisation, and traffic prioritisation is the only way to truly maximise performance gains:
- Deduplication removes redundancies from data transmissions
- Application specific optimisations overcome the chattiness of certain application protocols such as CIFS (Common Internet File System) or MAPI (Messaging Application Program Interface)
- Transport optimisation technology should optimise traffic across multiple transport protocols, including both TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol)
- Quality of Service (QoS) prioritisation ensures fair access for mission-critical applications during periods of congestion
An often-overlooked consideration are the strategic technology partnerships established by WAN optimisation vendors. Choosing a vendor with strategic relationships such as cloud providers, application or storage vendors can offer the tightest integration for higher levels of performance but also provide the best levels of support to help enterprises deploy, manage, and maximise their investment.
Business value and ROI
According to IDC, organisations can achieve ROI in as little seven months by choosing WAN optimisation solutions over major bandwidth upgrades. Even more compelling, is that deploying WAN optimisation can result in up to 100 times faster access to critical applications, such as Microsoft SharePoint. That kind of performance improvement results in superlative value for organisations as employees are more productive, collaborative, and efficient, and customers are taken care of in a timely manner. Such as the case with a major retailer who recently realised productivity gains from a WAN optimisation deployment that translated to $35 million in increased revenue and a 68-day payback period on their investment.
As hyperconvergence comes to the modern enterprise, WAN optimisation is becoming essential to managing the corresponding explosion in end users, data, and devices. A well planned, strategic WAN optimisation solution deployment will allow organisations to extend optimisation to every user, application, and location in the world, all while paying for itself in seven months or less.