A Better Idea for WOC PoCs?

Lab Trials Faster, Cheaper, if you have the right tools

When having conversations with IT and network practitioners who are considering WAN Optimization Controller (WOC) solutions, the number one question inevitably comes down to “which one should I use?” Each vendor/product has its advantages. Of course the answer, as with so many multi-variable situations, is “it depends”. The answer depends on what your network architecture looks like. It depends on what types of connectivity you are dealing with. It depends on what mix of applications and services traffic you have running over the wide area. And, most importantly, it depends on which of those applications and services are most critical and which are less critical. With so many variables in play, most shops come to the conclusion that the only practical way to figure out which WOC vendor’s solution will work for them is to run a proof of concept (PoC), selecting a couple of remote sample sites, deploying some boxes, and then seeing how it works out. This is not a simple scenario – it can involve deploying personnel and making engineering change requests at multiple sites, and there is always a certain amount of risk when inserting a new technology in-line. Consequently, PoCs of this type are rarely quick, plus you’re only be able to observe what happens during the period of time the evaluation systems are in place – often leaving many questions about what would happen under the influence of variables that did not occurring during the evaluation period. But wait – perhaps there’s a better way. In a conversation I had this week with WAN emulator vendor Shunra, they related an example of a customer who constructed a test harness in their performance lab as a alternative approach to a WOC PoC. The customer, a multi-national entertainment company, used a Shunra Virtual Enterprise WAN emulator to simulate a wide range of WAN types and performance scenarios. This allowed them to understand the impact of several WOC vendors versus their own (recorded, replayed) mix of applications and services, all in a lab environment. Quick, easy to deploy, easy to reconfigure, and easy to shine a light on all of the question areas. Plus less logistics and risk, meaning lower cost for all involved in the process. Think about that for a minute. While it’s true that you would never completely replicate your live production environment in the lab, you can create a reasonable representation. And more importantly, you can test a range of possible healthy and non-healthy scenarios that can reflect the range of possible real world situations. You can even tinker with the WAN link variables in ways that you would not be allowed to do in the production network, so on the spot you can see whether or not you can, for instance, safely downsize a link once you have the WOC technology in place. Now of course there are suppliers of WAN emulation systems other than Shunra. You may have some options in your lab already. If you don't, some vendors (including Shunra) offer a service for temporary use of their products during your WOC PoC. Any way you go about it, it’s worth keeping this approach in the back of your mind as a way to accelerate your next acceleration evaluation.

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