Today, employees are distributed across various branch offices and are typically connected to enterprise applications via the corporate wide area network, or WAN, the essential lifeline to the data centre or corporate headquarters.
But the WAN isn’t what it used to be. Most organisations are finding that it no longer provides the access and interactivity needed for critical business applications. This has led to significant productivity issues, a reduced capacity to serve customers, a loss of ability to make business transactions in real time, and a decline in employee morale.
In other words, a perfect reseller opportunity!
The traditional solution, adding more bandwidth, usually does little to alleviate the problem, since most of the issues are caused by latency. With so many web and file applications using ‘chatty’ protocols, the time for a network round trip becomes significant. A web page of 30 objects may take 10 or more round trips to download. A one-megabyte file transfer requires over 250 round trips. Hundreds of round trips for each transaction can really add up.
First-generation WAN optimisation solutions concentrated on applying acceleration to WAN traffic. While this helped speed the transfer of files and other traffic, it also accelerated the ‘bad’ traffic such as spyware communication, viruses and pop-up advertising. Added to this, it accelerated non-business applications, such as downloading music.
A better solution involves a combined approach of stopping bad or malicious traffic, minimising the impact of non-business-critical traffic and accelerating business-critical applications using techniques that overcome the effect of latency due to distance and ‘chatty’ communication.
With the latest WAN optimisation solutions, resellers can assist organisations that are struggling to handle the unauthorised use of certain applications by employees. Such activities include downloading movies or watching streaming video, which can result in a breakdown in communications. A computer with spyware will generate ‘phone home requests’ and tens or hundreds of these can amount to significant traffic across the WAN.
Similarly, take the issue of news sites that now embed video in their HTTP web content, which starts automatically when someone visits the site. Video progressively downloaded over HTTP now represents a significant amount of network traffic. All of these applications or activities can now be managed, prioritised, and have their effect on the network mitigated.
If an organisation does not want to restrict employees from watching news sites or YouTube, it can still minimise the effect on its internet connection and WAN. Caching the content at the internet gateway or locally at the branch office enables popular video to be served without affecting the WAN or internet gateway. In fact, all sorts of content, including software updates, can be locally cached to reduce network traffic.
And here’s something else to consider: for security reasons, many organisations still have a centralised internet gateway and backhaul internet traffic to and from branch offices over costly WAN links. According to Gartner, many organisations will shift away from backhauling internet traffic over the next few years. Enterprises will increasingly deploy internet gateways in remote offices and use the internet as a cost-effective WAN substitution. Once this happens, the security and control issues at the branch intensify – another perfect reseller opportunity.
While application acceleration remains a forefront concern, with WAN optimisation a chief priority for IT managers with existing networks, analyst firm IDC also sees the importance of acceleration, policy control and security in an integrated platform. IDC calls this ‘WAN Application Delivery’ to distinguish it from older solutions.
So we also have a new name for this perfect reseller opportunity. Perfect!