Keeping Clouds at Peak Performance

As cloud installations soar, theres growing awareness that performance doesnt always meet expectations. Enter cloud-WAN optimization, a prime opportunity for channel partners.

Kelly Teal, Contributing Editor

February 21, 2011

4 Min Read
Keeping Clouds at Peak Performance

As cloud deployments take off, resellers, systems integrators and even agents need to be on the lookout for performance problems. After all, enterprises and SMBs dont choose cloud technology with the expectation that their data and applications will get the hiccups or, worse, slow to a crawl. But cloud providers, keen to promote their services as the answer to all business concerns, dont always bring attention to the need for efficiency aids, particularly in the case of a public cloud deployment where the merchant has no control over a users Internet connection. Thats why channel partners need to be aware that complications can emerge and know how to deal with them. To do that, join forces with vendors that specialize in the cloud and in WAN optimization.

Cloud-WAN optimization improves network functionality right away and, when done correctly, spots emerging bottlenecks, speeds up protocols and fast-tracks data replication among databases. Best of all, partners dont have to be experts in cloud-WAN optimization to help their clients. Most suppliers recognize that partners want to serve as trusted advisers, rather than technical specialists, and, as a result, deliver targeted support and training.

Once partners have chosen vendors that work with their business models, its time to take action. First, check in with enterprises and SMBs already in the cloud. Constraints often appear after a deployment, said Mark Urban, senior director of product marketing for Blue Coat Systems Inc., because many cloud providers dont want to admit their services need optimization. To say that the cloud needs an efficiency boost takes the shine off the apple a bit,” Urban said.

But the truth is that the Amazons and Googles of the world dont control a users connection to the cloud. And people simultaneously retrieving information from and Microsoft SharePoint, for example, as well as from video and SSL-encrypted sites, are bound to clog the pipes. Therefore, businesses in the public cloud have to optimize what they can control, such as protocols and network capacity. But WAN optimization is just as necessary in private and hybrid clouds as it is in the public cloud, as enterprises send the data through their own infrastructure. In all instances, cloud customers will need special equipment or software to analyze, route and manage cloud traffic.

Thus, having the correct WAN optimization gear or platforms in place is critical. Some important elements to consider:

  • LAN-like application functionality for remote users and branch offices. The more complexity thats involved, the more you get away from the power of the Internet and the power of the cloud,” said Urban.

  • Less bandwidth consumption among data centers with the use of compression and reduced redundant-data transmission.

  • WAN optimization in the cloud is more than optimizing bandwidth. Its also about security, availability and applications,” said Dean Darwin, vice president of worldwide channels for F5 Networks Inc.

  • A turnkey product, combined with multiple broadband connections, improves overall capabilities and often reduces monthly expenses. Make sure the needs of the business get priority before other traffic” such as YouTube, said Jason Breyer, vice president of sales and marketing at Ecessa.

  • IT consolidation and virtualization are key. Dont force people to rip and replace the technology they already have in place,” said Apurva Davé, vice president of product marketing for Riverbed Technology.

In addition to equipment or software installations, there is one immediate approach to cloud-WAN optimization, as Breyer noted, that improves capacity, although its no cure-all. The idea is to add DSL and cable connections to the clients T1 or add a second or third T1 if contracts are in place and voilà, instant failover and redundancy and a shorter path from a branch office to the cloud. Minnesota-based Ecessa employs this method, but not as a stand-alone answer to WAN optimization of cloud services.

Another way to improve cloud-WAN performance is protocol optimization, which serious suppliers build into their products, thus requiring little additional expertise from partners. The method streamlines data payloads, transport layer protocols and applications to accelerate cloud traffic overall.

Cloud-WAN Optimization Dos & Donts

  • Do understand how a network is architected, where the WAN and the Internet fit in, and where the cloud layers over that. There may be room to design the network differently to make it work better with a companys cloud services, said Blue Coats Mark Urban.

  • Dont sell cloud services without a turnkey WAN optimization product in the mix. If you do, youll find that the close ratio gets lower because customers know its a piece theyre missing. They know theyre relying on the Internet,” said Ecessas Jason Breyer.

  • Do help customers figure out whats right for their businesses. Just because cloud is hot doesnt mean its appropriate for everyone, said Riverbeds Apurva Davé. Its a little bit of the wild, wild West for the cloud.”

  • Dont leave money on the table by focusing just on WAN optimization of cloud services. Availability and security go hand-in-hand with WAN optimization. WAN optimization is just an entry point,” said F5 Networks Dean Darwin.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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