Improving WAN Efficiency: Steps To Optimisation

Appliances adopting WAN optimisation techniques - including various byte caching, compression, and bandwidth management technologies - accelerate the delivery of new data, while minimising the need to continually backup unchanged data.

Jonathan Andresen September 29, 2008 14:01:53 IST
Improving WAN Efficiency: Steps To Optimisation

As businesses strive for improved productivity, employees are increasingly becoming more distributed around the globe, while servers and applications are becoming more centralised. This shift has resulted in employees having to traverse the WAN to get access to critical productivity applications.

The problem, however, is that these applications were never intended for delivery to users thousands of miles away, and so performance and response times often suffer and become unacceptably slow.

Although a seemingly logical way out, increasing one’s bandwidth only offers temporary relief and does not strike at the roots of the problems. The following are six steps that can help you and your business to accelerate business applications and file transfer times and reduce business latency and bandwidth consumption.

Step 1: Optimise WAN Applications

One root cause of the problem is the 'chattiness' of many application protocols, often resulting in hundreds of time-consuming roundtrips between users and applications. What is needed are appliances that apply protocol optimisation and other WAN acceleration techniques that minimise these round trips and improve application response time for all remote users regardless of their location.

Step 2: Optimise Data Centre Backup

Multiple data centres are a necessity for every large enterprise, and ongoing data centre backup is essential to ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster. However, as the volume of business data constantly increases, so does the time required to perform regular backups. This process can disrupt the normal business activities and impact the productivity of users, who require fast access to critical business information. Appliances adopting WAN optimisation techniques – including various byte caching, compression, and bandwidth management technologies – accelerate the delivery of new data, while minimising the need to continually backup unchanged data. As a result, the time required for data centre backups can be reduced by 50 percent or more.

Step 3: Optimise SSL Traffic

There has been a rapidly rising trend for businesses to make the transition towards Web-based business applications that are hosted both internally and externally. This results in a growth in the amount of SSL traffic on the corporate WAN network. However, because SSL applications are encrypted, their contents are not visible to IT organisations. Consequently, it is impossible to effectively control and accelerate critical SSL applications. WAN optimising appliances, can be installed between users and applications. These applications can solve SSL traffic problems by first terminating SSL tunnels, then applying appropriate security policies and WAN optimisation techniques to control security and SSL processing. The data is then re-encrypted and delivered to its destination. The result is that users can experience performance gains ranging from 10X to 100X, regardless of where the application is hosted.

Step 4: Optimise Streaming Video

In many distributed organisations, more than 60 percent of all employees work outside the corporate headquarters. This makes it difficult to train employees and provide effective communications on important business issues. Video-based training and executive video programmes are now being delivered across the WAN to resolve this problem and overcome the distance barrier separating employees. Unfortunately, the bandwidth required by such video applications can easily consume all available WAN bandwidth, resulting in a poor quality video experience for remote users. Some WAN optimising appliances solve the problem for pre-recorded video with advanced caching technology that allows pre-positioning of video content in the appliance. Such appliances employ stream-splitting technology, which conserves bandwidth by delivering only one stream across the WAN. The stream is then split and individual streams are delivered to each desktop. This eliminates the need for remote users to access video over the WAN. This also eliminates the enormous congestion problem typically associated with live video broadcasts, which delivers a separate video stream to each user over the WAN network. The benefit of having such WAN optimising appliances is a consistent level of superior video quality for all remote users.

Step 5: Optimise Web Traffic

The amount of Internet traffic on the corporate WAN network often accounts for 50 percent or more of total WAN traffic in distributed organisations that rely on centralised Internet gateways. Some of this traffic consists of externally hosted business applications and other relevant business content. But the majority of it is usually a mix of inappropriate content and unwanted traffic, including P2P applications, video downloads, web surfing, spyware, and other malware. What is needed is an appliance with extensive policy controls and filtering technologies that allows IT organisations to automatically and effectively limit or block unwanted Internet traffic from entering the corporate WAN, while also preventing users from visiting inappropriate websites. The net effect of these traffic controls is more efficient use of WAN bandwidth, reduced WAN congestion, and faster application delivery to remote users.

Step 6: Optimise Apps for Mobile Users

With increasing globalisation of business comes the growth in the use of mobile devices such as PDAs, smart phones and the like. Like users in branch offices, mobile users such as executives and salespeople who are on the road, are often thousands of miles from the applications and data resources that their productivity depends on. Therefore, they require the same application performance and WAN optimisation services that are delivered to branch office users. There are now available applications in the form of a downloadable software agent that can extend WAN optimisation and application acceleration services to all mobile users. Such appliances, effectively extend the boundaries of the enterprise by providing all mobile users with enhanced performance, protection, and control of all critical business applications, including client-server, Web, SSL, video, and more.

With multitude products and appliances currently available in the market, it is vital that businesses carefully consider their needs and work towards a robust and comprehensive solution to the problems brought about by the increasing demands of globalisation.

A holistic approach is the only option available, but it does not necessarily have to break the bank. Integrated solutions are available, which are able to accomplish the steps highlighted above.

Andresen is director of Product Marketing, Asia Pacific, Blue Coat Systems.

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