Branch Office Cloud
– Dr. Cahit Jay Akin, Chief Executive Officer, Co-founder of Mushroom Networks, says:
From organizations such as banks and insurance agents to retail stores – the branch office is the engine of the business – one that requires an uninterrupted flow of data and applications to operate efficiently. That’s where wide area networks (WANs) come in – the increasingly strained data pipelines between main office and branch locations.
The stress on WAN infrastructure is enormous, which is why new and capital efficient approaches to optimizing bandwidth are in high demand. Some are supply-focused, creating virtual pools of bandwidth. Others work by minimizing the amount of bits piped through the WAN. And some are about traffic management – using strategies to actively prioritize and shape data flows.
The source of the stress? Unprecedented types and volume of WAN traffic. Virtualization, cloud computing, centralization and globalization, not to mention the proliferation of smart mobile devices, real-time video, VoIP, and unified communications traffic are exhausting existing WAN networks.
Want more complexity? Add latency to the mix. WAN latency can be 100 times greater than on a company’s LAN. At best, the result is unresponsive and laggy access to applications for branch users.
Breaking the bottleneck
So, what can companies do to ensure their branch users stay productive even as data volumes continue to grow – without upgrading to costly premium services?
One approach is WAN virtualization, leveraging Broadband Bonding. Much like other virtualization technologies, WAN virtualization is an intelligence layer on top of real physical resources for managing those same resources for better performance. WAN virtualization abstracts and aggregates the ISP transports so that the various ISP connections can be aggregated into one fast and reliable WAN connection.
WAN virtualization also enables intelligent traffic management and QoS, so network managers can dynamically build simpler, higher-performing virtual IP pipes out of real WAN resources, including existing private WANs and various Internet WAN links like DSL, cable, fiber and wireless.
Broadband Bonding enables combining various Internet resources in an efficient manner, for faster connection speed, higher reliability and built-in redundancies that can keep IP sessions alive in case of link failures.
Broadband Bonding is also cost effective. As an example, for global firms with branch offices around the world, it can be implemented over the existing infrastructure and the return on the investment is usually under a few months.
Streamlining the payload
Another approach – focusing on demand rather than supply – is WAN optimization using de-duplication, compression and caching.
While WAN virtualization focuses on the network fabric itself, optimization targets specific applications to speed its transmission over the network and minimize traffic.
Conventional compression works especially well for situations where the data traffic is not encrypted or is not already compressed.
De-duplication reduces transfer of redundant data across the WAN by sending references instead of actual data. And caching is ideal for businesses that transmit similar but large files between offices, e.g. a design firm working with large design files that, day-to-day, are only modified slightly. To reduce traffic demands, a firm can cache the original file at the receiver’s side and then only send along parts of the file that have been changed (think backup protocols).
Another technique for boosting WAN performance focuses on delivery itself. Application acceleration via traffic shaping and other methods helps to deliver traffic to application servers in a more efficient manner.
Traffic shaping gives enterprises the ability to prioritize protocols and applications. Transaction prediction addresses application ‘chattiness’ by predicting upcoming requests and bundling them to reduce round-trips.
The fact is, WAN performance is a moving target, as data demands evolve as quickly as advancements in WAN technology. This makes it all the more important to design a comprehensive solution.
Traffic monitoring is also essential, as it enables IT to analyze business applications according to bandwidth consumption and spot non work-related activities need to be eliminated from the pipeline.
There are also network service providers who will be providing managed services that for now bond multiple, similar lines such as DSL to enhance bandwidth to distributed locations.
Today, the sustainability of the branch office model rests squarely on finding efficient ways to sustain and expand WAN performance as device, application and user needs change. Short of investing in a costly service upgrade, businesses have several cost-efficient options worth exploring and ideally combining them to address bandwidth needs now and down the road.
Dr. Cahit Jay Akin, is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Mushroom Networks, a privately held company based in San Diego, CA, providing broadband products and solutions for a range of Internet applications. http://www.mushroomnetworks.com