The Never-Ending “Big vs. Managed” Pipe Battle

UC

It’s been at least 15 years since I participated in my first “should you manage what you’ve got or just throw more bandwidth at the problem” network strategy discussion. Back then, proponents of ATM largely took the side of “manage” while emerging Ethernet vendors argued that it was cheaper and easier to just throw more bandwidth at the problem.

In the end, in the LAN anyway, the Ethernet vendors won out. But theirs was not a total victory. Thanks to latency-sensitive applications such as voice and video, most companies now have some application performance management solution in place, even if it’s just simple prioritization for one or more classes of traffic.

In the WAN, however, the “big vs. managed” battle roars on. Even as Ethernet, fiber and wavelength services become increasingly available, IT managers are rapidly ramping up their deployments of application delivery optimization (ADO), driven by the need to both guarantee performance of different classes of applications while reducing the cost of, and need for, additional bandwidth. And these efforts have borne success. Nemertes notes that companies investing in ADO typically reduce bandwidth costs and growth versus those that don’t. Thanks to the still-high cost of bandwidth, especially in international locations, ADO is high on the list of priorities for most telecom managers.

But buying a large inventory of self-managed caching, compression, and rate shaping devices isn’t the only solution for ADO. Many service providers are now deploying ADO as either a managed or cloud-based service.

Carrier/cloud optimization employs the same technologies as an enterprise might deploy in-house (compression, protocol acceleration, and so on). Volume-reducing functions such as compression have to happen in customer-premises equipment (CPE) managed by the carrier, since the point of reducing volume is to minimize bandwidth to the carrier. Behavior-based functions such as protocol accelerations or packet-loss mitigation can take place in the carrier's internal network. The carrier can install optimization gear for traffic shaping or protocol acceleration wherever it makes the most sense in their network, avoiding the complexity and cost of CPE, which can be attractive for organizations with lots of small branches. A managed solution can have lower start-up costs, making it a choice worth examining closely, especially in challenging economic times when budgets are still flat or falling.

A managed service is also typically quicker to get up and running, handy when needs change unexpectedly. Because they are lighter-weight organizationally, requiring less lead time, less internal expertise, and no capital investment, they allow easier layering of new solutions on top of or alongside existing in-house deployments.

Bottom line: Consider managed and cloud-based solutions as part of your ADO roadmap.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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