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Posts Tagged ‘WAN Optimization’

Happy Cinco De Mayo to all, and I hope everyone had a great Star Wars weekend (May the 4th be with all of you!). It appears that, while many of us were watching Star Wars movies (2-6 I hope, as everyone hates 1) or planning a big Mexican feast, the folks over at Viptela were also busy. Monday morning, like a Jedi in the shadows, Viptela came out of stealth mode a week after CloudGenix launched, to add to the WAN disruption frenzy. I’m guessing CloudGenix launched last week so the executives could have a rich, fun-filled Star Wars weekend.

Like CloudGenix, Viptela is focused on building a more dynamic, agile WAN. Viptela this week announced what it is calling the Viptela Secure Extensible Network (SEN), which enables companies to deploy, manage and secure WANs easily and cost effectively. Also, just as importantly, the company brings a high level of simplification to the ongoing operations and change management to the WAN. The agility of the WAN becomes increasingly important as business applications continue to evolve, requiring rapid changes to optimize the performance of the WAN.

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The corporate wide area network (WAN) is a funny thing. Even back in my early days as a network manager in the early 90s, there was talk of finding an alternative to the tried-and-true “hub and spoke” MPLS, frame relay, or other type of network. There’s no question that this type of network, although widely deployed, is inefficient, as it routes all traffic through a single choke point (the hub). Additionally, each branch location at the end of each spoke is at risk of being down if the WAN connection fails.

So why is this model of network design still so popular? Well, as inefficient as it is, it has worked OK with client/server-based applications, as most of these were in the corporate data center, or the hub. The inefficiency I spoke of was more relevant for Internet-based applications as that traffic had to come through a single point, traverse the WAN and then “trombone” back down the same connection.

Given the rise in cloud based applications, the need for WAN change has never been higher, and more and more companies are finally evolving the WAN. One of the more notable trends has been to connect branches with direct Internet access. The direct connection provides faster access to cloud applications and can also be used as an alternative connection to the primary network, creating a hybrid network.

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As an industry analyst, I get briefed on many, many new products, most of which are positioned to me as “transformative” and “game-changing.” The majority of the products, though, are frankly pretty lame, and the startup fades away after just a few years. However, every once in a while a vendor comes along with a product that makes me sit up and take notice because it solves a significant problem and creates a whole new market.

This was the case with Riverbed. Way in back in 2002, I remember Riverbed executive Eric Wolford (who recently left) came to see me at Yankee Group with PR person Kim Kapustka to show me a new product that can optimize WAN links. Going into the meeting, I was somewhat skeptical and was expecting something akin to another QoS device, for which there were many already on the market. Instead, Eric walked me through how the company actually accelerated the traffic and gave LAN-like performance to WAN-based applications, such as Windows and email. Riverbed created the WAN optimization market, and the company and market took off like a rocket. Before one of you out there posts a comment that states someone like Actona actually created the market because they were first, which might be true, Riverbed was the biggest, loudest vendor in the space and now stands as the market leader in the WAN optimization market.

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All eyes are on San Francisco this week.  Why?  Because Colin Kaepernick is going to have the best season for a second year quarterback since Dan Marino’s magical 1984 season?  That’s a pretty good reason, but the pre-season still has a week left.

No, this week downtown San Francisco is overrun by 25,000 supreme geeks as VMware tries to convince everyone that the software defined data center is the future and other vendors look to align themselves with this message.

One of the vendors attempting to do just that is WAN optimization vendor Silver Peak. Yesterday, Silver Peak announced integration with VMware’s NSX network virtualization to create greater network agility. Given the trends in networking – the continued increase in virtual traffic combined with a shift to hybrid cloud architectures creates a need for greater network agility.

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Earlier this week, WAN optimization leader Riverbed announced an upgrade to RiOS, the operating system that powers its Steelhead appliances. This particular release, version 8.5, had some particularly unique features that I felt expanded the use of WAN Optimization appliances.

Historically, WAN optimization products have been used to improve the performance over private networks by accelerating traffic over specific links by accelerating traffic. This made it ideal for optimizing the performance of email, Windows, CAD, and other applications that caused enterprise network managers headaches. From the many interviews I’ve done with Riverbed customers, it’s clear that once network managers get a taste of an optimized WAN, they want more. In fact, one network engineer I talked to described Riverbed as “network crack,” meaning the more he got, the more he wanted.

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Earlier this year, Riverbed released a product known as the “Granite Edge Virtual Server Infrastructure (VSI)” to optimize the performance of many of the applications that it’s core product, Steelhead, does not. 

For those not familiar with the differences between Steelhead and Granite, the traditional Steelhead product optimizes the performance of file-based applications, such as Word and Exchange, through a number of acceleration technologies such as compression and TCP optimization.  Granite addresses block level applications such as database and virtual machines. 

While the continued growth of Steelhead demonstrated that there were a number of “killer apps” for it, the killer application for Granite was not obvious, since there aren’t that many block storage based applications run in the data center. 

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