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Application performance: The key goal of WAN optimization

By David White, president, Ipanema Technologies, N.A., special to Network World
June 20, 2012 02:19 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

As the WAN matures, with advances in robust applications, cloud delivery and other technologies, optimization tools have had to keep pace. It is no longer just about classic compression and protocol acceleration. The new role is about application performance, delivering everything from application visibility to quality of service (QoS) control. In short, the focus is on true WAN governance.

The proliferation of cloud computing will have a major impact on the WAN and, specifically, on the performance of business-critical applications that cross the WAN. Data centers and companies alike must be prepared to address this shift since, with cloud computing, the WAN traffic matrix becomes much more complicated and stresses the network like never before, requiring movement of massive amounts of data.

BACKGROUND: Demand growing for application performance management tools, experts say

OUTLOOK: WAN optimization market shakeup predicted

Enamored by the promise of the cloud, organizations looking to reduce costs and improve service levels must first prepare the network to support significant increases in bandwidth usage and Web browsing traffic. Organizations must inventory both the critical and noncritical applications running on the network and also assess use-case scenarios for events that may tax the WAN beyond its normal capacity.

There are two ways to address the need for greater bandwidth: Purchase more or use what you have more effectively through WAN optimization tools, which monitor and regulate the flow of applications across networks. Adding more bandwidth is a stop-gap solution, as more is rarely enough in the long term. Critical applications will take as much bandwidth as possible because of the way that the Internet protocol is designed.

TCP (Transport Control Protocol) operates as a layer for protocol on top of IP. Designed to be able to share limited, poor-quality resources, TCP is structured to seize available bandwidth. When the network is struggling to deliver resources, TCP will sense delays and slow down, creating congestion situations. It's a protocol where every data transfer, every application, will try to take as much network resource as possible. This means more bandwidth, applied indiscriminately, isn't the solution.

The solution lies in having tools that allow an IT department to control applications as they flow across the network. With WAN governance, IT departments can see how applications are moving, who is using them and for what purpose. IT can then prioritize applications accordingly.

WAN governance

True WAN governance is about aligning business priorities and IT priorities over your global WAN. It means being able to identify business-critical applications on the network and their level of performance. IT needs to ensure user productivity and satisfaction and also provide the measurement and reporting on actual delivered application performance, in a way that is easy to understand. With WAN governance, enterprises can finally manage the cost/performance tradeoffs at the IT level (i.e., rightsizing your network according to application performance SLAs).

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