Wrestling with management challenges

* A nice byproduct of a WAN optimization deployment? Better collaboration among IT sects

I read an interesting article last week written by a Network World reader who raised the issue of who in an IT organization should take responsibility for the ownership, configuration and management of WAN optimization appliances.

On the one hand, the appliances tend to resemble a switch or a router in terms of how they are configured, and some implementations require network changes to redirect traffic to the appliances, points out Dan Campbell, who is the director of network engineering at satellite services provider Intelsat.

On the other hand, many WAN optimization appliances behave like an application proxy and contain application-layer intelligence. Proper implementation requires an understanding of application behavior, Campbell asserts.

So who gets responsibility for the devices? Network engineers used to being knee-deep in circuits, switches and routers? Or IT managers with PC, server and application expertise?

Either way there will be a learning curve. Campbell speculates that network engineers probably know as much about application protocols like Common Internet File System (CIFS) and Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) as IT systems managers know about policy-based routing and Web Cache Communication Protocol.

His conclusion is that it will take a collaborative effort between network and systems staff to make sure a WAN optimization deployment, as well as ongoing management, is handled properly. “Tossing the ball to one side of the fence or the other will likely lead to a sub-optimal implementation and operational issues,” Campbell writes. “Those organizations that collaborate well should reap the rewards that the technology has to offer.”

WAN optimization isn’t the first technology to challenge traditional lines of demarcation among IT disciplines. VoIP technologies razed boundaries between telecommunications and network departments, for example. Service-oriented architecture (SOA) efforts are challenging enterprises to rethink the operational silos that separate application development and systems architecture teams. Similarly, a heightened emphasis on data security is fostering collaboration among security, systems, storage, application and networking staff.

More open, collaborative communication among IT sects is inevitable in forward-thinking companies, and technologies such as WAN optimization are helping to speed the process along. Many early adopters of WAN optimization technologies may have been motivated by a desire to speed application performance and get greater utilization of bandwidth -- but it’s a pretty nice side benefit if a deployment winds up improving IT collaboration as well.

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