Cloud Drives Need for Improved WAN Optimization

November 11, 2010 Off By Hoofer
Grazed from IT Business Edge.  Author: Arthur Cole.

If the public cloud is in your future, there will be no getting around the fact that application performance will very much depend on your ability to negotiate public networks.

That problem is that once your data has left the confines of your internal infrastructure, you are at the mercy of whatever traffic conditions happen to be in place at any given time. For many organizations, that leaves too much to chance, which is why interest in cloud-ready optimization technologies is at fever pitch.

Riverbed recently upped the ante in this field with a new version of the Steelhead appliance designed to integrate directly into popular cloud services like Amazon’s EC2. The goal behind the Cloud Steelhead is to provide a single platform on which applications can maintain peak performance regardless of whether users are utilizing local or cloud resources. The system works in conjunction with the new Whitewater appliance designed to perform the same function for storage.

According to Riverbed executives, the overriding goal is to maintain the flexibility and scalability of cloud environments while bringing down the costs. Added touches like a deduplication engine in the Whitewater appliance are designed to keep data loads to a minimum even as they enhance the platform’s ability to support popular cloud applications like backup and recovery.

In fact, B&R is likely to be a primary mover of cloud-based WAN optimization, as the experience of communications firm Rhea & Kaiser shows. The company was having significant trouble replicating virtual machines in the cloud before it deployed NetEx’s HyperIP software. The system bumped its long-distance transfer rates from a latency-inducing 10 Mbps to upwards of 800 Mbps, providing smooth connectivity for the firms virtual private network (VPN) and virtual tape network (VTN).

However, some studies indicate that WAN optimization may be of more benefit to some organizations than to others. Orange Business Services, a unit of France Telecom, recently surveyed top executives at more than 500 multinational corporations across Europe and found only about half had any form of optimization technology in place, even though the need for strong application performance in cloud environments was rated as a top priority. The discrepancy tended to fall along regional lines, with many organizations reporting less of a need for optimization provided they had low bandwidth costs and advanced access technologies at their disposal.

If the use of cloud services increases as quickly as the experts predict, it probably won’t be long before optimization becomes an integral part of the picture. Public networks offer a vast amount of bandwidth, but as cloud deployments increase, more and more application data will flood the system. As a technology that can both lower costs and increase performance, WAN optimization will seem too good to pass up.