WAN Optimization Moves to the Cloud

WAN optimization "as a service" connects the enterprise WAN to any cloud service and remote locations without any appliances or dedicated access links.

Channel Partners

August 16, 2012

6 Min Read
WAN Optimization Moves to the Cloud

By Sonal Puri

The WAN has become the lifeblood of todays global enterprise. Without these vital connections between the headquarters, data centers and remote site locations, businesses lose access to critical data and applications. With the migration to the cloud, they stand to lose even more functionality if their networks falter. Ironically, cloud delivery now is making optimizing the WAN simpler and more cost effective with WAN optimization as-a-service.

The vast majority of enterprises are decentralized locally, nationally and often globally, with distributed offices and workforces that require constant connectivity. Most commonly, CIOs of these modern enterprises centralize their IT assets to achieve economies of scale, control and security. Centralized data and applications may be hosted at corporate headquarters, central data centers or at software-as-a-service providers.

However, this centralization of data and applications poses problems linked to security issues and the high volumes of data accessed across global WAN links. These problems include high cost, poor performance in terms of both bandwidth and latency, poor visibility across branches and complex management of acceleration and security equipment between branches, headquarters and data centers.

The public Internet, while widely used by consumers and enterprises, is not a reliable means of communication. Internet-based communication has a very low quality of service and is generally inadequate for business use. In order to solve this problem, corporations buy private links to connect their distributed branches with their corporate applications. The most commonly used private link network, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), switches packets based on adding labels and provides predictable characteristics over a variety of topologies. Despite the advantages of private networks like MPLS, both data transport and application execution still suffer from latency, bandwidth restrictions and poor network visibility.

Over the past decade, the network performance problem for enterprises has been partially addressed by a number of WAN optimization controller (WOC) vendors that perform application acceleration and WAN optimization functions using hardware appliances placed at the headquarters and/or branch ends of the network.

These solutions share a common set of issues that tax IT departments:

  • Hardware requirements: The primary delivery mechanism of WOC solutions is through equipment, which is either purchased or leased. With additional remote site locations opening up, the number of appliances at the headquarters can rise quickly, requiring load balancers to distribute the load uniformly on the racks of servers; this results in additional capital expenditure.

  • Upgrades and maintenance: Updates at the headquarters and remote site locations have to be planned simultaneously during maintenance windows, and new software releases need to be evaluated and tested on-site with real traffic. These complexities typically result in downtime, additional staffing and expertise that enterprises need to plan for and invest in.

  • MPLS costs: The desired mode of network connectivity between WOCs is most commonly MPLS-based, which has substantial transit and transport charges. A large portion of these costs are fixed and require significant durations of commitment. Getting new locations connected through MPLS in distant geographies can take months to materialize.

  • Scalability limitations and future-proofing: Scalability in a box is achieved by adding new appliances or boxes. These require truckloads of equipment per customer to add capacity. Since the unit of scaling is per-box, a scale-down (based on the time of year or business conditions) results in the customer holding the under-utilized or oversized inventory.

  • Additional services: Many WOC vendors are attempting to add new functionality to their equipment including DHCP, Active Directory, file access, firewall, security filtering and virus scanning. A combination of functions frequently results in under-performance of all functions because of the limited processing power of the equipment.

  • Cloud service access: Many corporations are evaluating SaaS solutions to replace in-house applications. These applications typically are hosted outside the corporate data center and access to these services from a remote site location to the cloud service provider is routed through a server at headquarters. This increases latency and network traffic for the request. In addition, the request cannot be optimized using symmetric techniques because of the absence of a box in the vicinity of the cloud service provider.

Cloud-Enabled WAN Optimization

WOC vendors and other service providers are trying to find ways to optimize access to the cloud. Their only option is to install another appliance albeit a virtual appliance within the cloud providers infrastructure. Because of the many types of cloud, this presents issues as well. The cloud, for example, can mean public, private or hybrid; it can be data or applications hosted within a private data center or offered as a global on-demand application. Every enterprise requiring optimized access to the cloud will have to install a virtual appliance for each cloud service they need to access, and another few at locations or users that want to access this cloud service.

Another approach to achieving optimized access to cloud services regardless of their purpose and infrastructure location is to use the cloud delivery model itself to provide WAN optimization “as a service.” To do this, a provider must establish multiple points of presence across the world connected by a dedicated, secure and redundant network that would connect the enterprise WAN to any cloud service and remote locations without any appliances or dedicated access links.

Enterprises simply connect over a secure, encrypted link from each site location to the nearest provider point of presence.  Adding these services to a network is as easy as adding another site to the enterprise VPN. Last-mile appliances may be needed for places where Internet connectivity can be a challenge, such as parts of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America.

Channel Opportunity

Channel partners also can now offer WAN optimization to more of their customers. By decoupling WAN optimization from dedicated hardware and delivering it as a pay-for-what-you-use service, the need for  capital investment in premises equipment and the on-site staff to install and manage it are eliminated, making cloud-based WAN optimization solutions cost-justifiable for the entire corporate network, including small, remote branches. Similarly, cloud-based solutions open the WAN optimization market to midsize businesses for the first time.

Partners can resell the service as they would a telco or cloud provider service, developing a recurring revenue stream. Plus, they don’t have to worry about implementation or appliance management. As a result, they increase gross margins while adding more value to their customers.

Sonal Puri is vice president of marketing and sales for Aryaka, a provider of WAN optimization as-a-service. She has more than 15 years of Internet infrastructure experience in business development, channels, sales and technical marketing at companies such as Akamai, Speedera Networks, Inktomi, CAS and Euclid. She holds a master’s degree in building science from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Mumbai, India.


Hear more in the session, “Powering the Next-Gen Enterprise WAN With Optimization and Virtualization,” at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Sept. 12-14, in Orlando.

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