WAN optimization tips

* Criteria end users could use to choose a network and application optimization solution

In the last newsletter we mentioned that Jim recently completed a six-city seminar tour for Network World on the topic of network and application optimization. We used that newsletter to discuss some of the key issues that were highlighted during the tour. We are going to continue that discussion in this newsletter.

All of the sponsors of the seminar tour suggested criteria that end users could use to choose a network and application optimization solution. For example, most of the vendors advocated that a solution should be scalable. This is a topic that we covered in a recent newsletter.

Another criterion that was mentioned frequently, was ease of deployment. The general train of thought was that if you were going to be deploying an appliance in each of your branch offices, that you would prefer to not have to send highly skilled IT professionals from office to office just to install the appliance. That train of thought certainly makes sense. However, since all vendors are going to claim that their product is easy to install it begs the question: How can an IT organization evaluate this criterion?

Riverbed had a suggestion. Riverbed pointed out that most IT organizations perform a trial of a solution prior to purchasing it. With that in mind, Riverbed suggested that when an IT organization receives the equipment for the trial that the organization should avoid the temptation to have a skilled IT professional install it. Rather, Riverbed suggested that the IT organization should identify someone with the same general level of skills as would be found in the typical branch office and have him or her install it. If that person can successfully install the equipment, then the equipment passes the test of being easy to install. As a result of being easy to install, the IT organization can feel relatively comfortable that they will not have to travel from office to office installing the solution.

While it is interesting to discuss the areas in which there was wide agreement among the vendors, it is also interesting to point out the vendors who had a unique message. One such vendor is Ipanema. Ipanema pointed out that the typical network and application optimization solution operates on a link-by-link basis. There is no problem with this approach as long as the traffic follows a hub and spoke pattern.

However, there are many factors that are driving the movement away from a hub and spoke traffic pattern and towards an any-to-any or a some-to-many traffic pattern. One of these factors is the well-chronicled movement to deploy VoIP, as voice traffic tends to follow an any-to-any traffic pattern. Another factor is the growing need for a branch office to need to access multiple data centers for reasons such as disaster recovery. The point that Ipanema made at the seminar was that optimizing on a link-by-link basis is fine as long as the only traffic that gets sent to branch office A is sent from headquarters. Ipanema claims that this approach breaks down when branch office A can receive traffic from multiple locations as branch office A may end up receiving so much traffic that all of the applications perform poorly.

We will discuss the seminar tour in additional detail in the next two newsletters. If the topic of network and application optimization interests you, you should note that Jim will be moderating a similar Network World seminar on Nov. 30 in San Francisco. If you are in the area you are invited to attend and continue this important conversation.

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