Small and midsize businesses are undergoing the same IT evolution as large enterprises, only on a smaller scale. For SMBs, WAN reliability, performance and ease of management are essential to WAN infrastructure. SMBs are able to achieve efficiencies and competitive advantages through the adoption of affordable, feature-rich WAN optimization technologies.
Without suitable technology, however, they will be competitively disadvantaged. Therefore, understanding how to choose the appropriate WAN optimization solution is critical to ensuring efficient, reliable WAN infrastructure to meet today’s requirements.
WAN application delivery for SMBs
Until recently, WAN solutions such as multihoming and Internet link failover were cost-prohibitive for SMBs. Today, advanced WAN optimization controllers (WOCs) are affordable and the integration of ISP link load balancing and failover, built-in VPN and firewall provide an out-of-the-box solution.
For larger enterprise organizations, high-end networking gear is commonplace. However, for SMBs, high-end equates to big bucks and unusable, enterprise-specific features. For SMBs, deploying products built with the explicit features, performance, reliability and scalability created specifically for the SMB market is the answer.
For large enterprises, high-end products come with a high TCO. Products from value vendors can help SMBs lower TCO and create high-performance and scalable WAN infrastructure. These products are built at a lower price than high-end products with features only required by large enterprises.
Critical Applications Over the WAN
Critical applications over the WAN
Within the last few years, businesses have utilized separate systems and services to communicate and transact business with customers, partners and employees. The power of networking is being unleashed and applications are now being developed to harness the Internet.
Traditional applications such as order processing, billing and customer management have been integrated into complete Web-based supply chain applications. Web applications unify and streamline business processes from previously monolithic client/server applications. This is good news for SMBs, as Web-based applications offer the potential to reduce the need for expensive hardware and quicken time to market (TTM).
However, organizations that deploy Web-based applications are facing many challenges. For example, when an application is delivered over a WAN link, it is not uncommon for the link to not handle the increased traffic load effectively. The source of these WAN problems is associated with high traffic volumes, limited bandwidth resources and ISP outages.
Despite budgets for IT-related equipment and services, Web applications may not deliver the expected improvements in performance and reliability when delivered over the WAN. Other events, such as hardware failure, human error and natural disasters (earthquakes and hurricanes) can cause the WAN to fail.
How to Differentiate WAN Optimization Products
How to differentiate WAN optimization products
WAN link controllers, WAN optimization controllers and WAN geographical load balancers are all WAN optimization products. Let’s differentiate between the three of them:
1. WAN link controllers: intelligently distribute user traffic among multiple, diverse WAN and ISP links. Advanced products include WAN and ISP link aggregation, automated inbound and outbound load balancing and failover, site-to-site channel bonding, multisite failover, traffic shaping, and built-in VPN and firewall technology.
2. WAN optimization controllers: accelerate applications with caching, compression, wide area file services (WAFS), protocol optimization, quality of service (QOS) and traffic shaping, and other content and application-specific acceleration methods.
3. WAN geographical load balancers: utilize global redirection technologies and health checking to keep users connected. They distribute traffic based on various parameters such as geography, round trip time, site availability and hops.
WAN Application Deliver Solutions
WAN application delivery solutions
WAN application delivery has emerged as one of the most important technologies in solving performance and accessibility problems for applications delivered over the Internet. WAN application delivery solutions were built to address WAN infrastructure complexity, performance, scalability and security issues.
These solutions may be known as application delivery controllers (ADC), global load balancers (GLB), WAN link controllers, dual WAN routers, multihoming switches and WOCs. In order to avoid confusion, this article refers to specialized WAN optimization controllers that have link load balancing and failover capabilities as WAN link controllers. WAN link controllers actually evolved from global load balancers that were first introduced in the late 1990s.
WAN link controllers direct Internet traffic to the best performing, most accessible WAN links. Should one link become inaccessible due to a bottleneck or failure, the WAN link controller will take that link out of service and automatically direct traffic to other functioning links-a virtually seamless process.
Bundling multiple, diverse Internet links from one or more ISPs, WAN link controllers reduce the need to purchase multiple, expensive high-speed links. This enables businesses to increase bandwidth by using cost-effective links without compromising uptime. In addition to managing scalability and redundancy, WAN link controllers can be used to cost-effectively utilize all available WAN bandwidth through site-to-site channel bonding. WAN link controllers can provide QOS controls for determining how bandwidth is used to support specific applications.
How to Optimize WAN Performance and Cost
How to optimize WAN performance and cost
WAN link controllers allow businesses to choose the WAN link performance/cost ratio based on need, provide complete service provider independence and eliminate complexity of network protocols such as Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). Advanced WAN link controllers use both inbound and outbound bandwidth aggregation to combine two or more Internet connections and provide critical applications with access to the total available combined bandwidth. WAN link controllers use link load balancing to route Internet sessions from congested links to links with more available bandwidth to ensure optimum performance for users. They also provide automatic failover of Internet sessions from failed links to functional links.
For example, if an SMB has a T1 line (1.5M bps) and needs additional bandwidth, it would typically have to upgrade to a T3 line (45M bps) or a bonded T1. However, this may utilize more bandwidth than is required, significantly increasing cost.
This same scenario can be accomplished with two 768K bps DSL links that can be combined for a total aggregated bandwidth equivalent to a T1 at a fraction of the cost. Additional lower speed links such as DSL, cable, wireless and others can be added with a relatively small increase in cost that can more closely match the SMB’s needs. In addition to receiving more cost-effective bandwidth, the SMB dramatically increases the reliability of its WAN network due to the new levels of redundancy through the aggregation of multiple Internet links.
WAN link controllers use various techniques to direct traffic load between two or more WAN links to optimize resource utilization and improve application delivery. They are fully compatible with DSL, cable, wireless, T-1, E-1, T-3, E-3, satellite, Fibre Channel, frame relay and other link types. This flexibility allows the mixing and matching of connectivity to best fit needs.
Marc Goodman is the Director of Marketing at Ecessa. Marc has over 29 years experience in the technology industry, with a history of building industry-leading brands for emerging companies, managing product marketing and marketing communications. Joining Ecessa in 2008, Marc is responsible for leading the company’s overall corporate and product marketing. Prior to Ecessa, Marc ran marketing for KEMP Technologies. From 1998 to 2001, Marc served as senior director of marketing at F5 Networks, where he led the marketing organization, developed an industry-leading brand and managed all marketing functions through a successful IPO. Marc has also served in marketing management positions at UBmatrix, Threshold Networks, SPRY/CompuServe, Cogent Networks, Attachmate and Wall Data. He can be reached at email@example.com.