Reliability of WAN Optimization Techniques: A Peep into Reality

By CIOReview | Tuesday, January 17, 2017

With increased footfalls of transactions and data exchange in every sector of businesses today, there is an immense need to optimize or increase the capacity of overall networking. Limited bandwidth, increased and varying latency, and reduced network reliability results in poor performances and user experiences. In such situations, WAN optimization techniques turn crucial in enhancing performance and speed. However, the reliability of WAN optimization techniques is still under question.

WAN optimization techniques are widely used in the backup software products to ensure continuous data protection. These techniques use bandwidth optimally by analyzing available networks and classifying the network traffic to enable data transfer and access of time-sensitive and mission-critical data traffic. Throttling bandwidths turns pivotal in such scenarios.

Bandwidth Throttling

The technique that involves prioritization of unauthorized and unwanted protocols and intentionally slowing them down, results in better productivity. However, bandwidth throttling doesn’t necessarily block only the unwanted ones and it filters even the permissible protocols. The throttling method does not find solutions for the causes, including but not limited to low bandwidth availability, unauthorized applications, and inappropriate resource links. It simply eases the network congestion to reduce server instability resulting from network saturation. This is done by controlling bandwidth-intensive devices, such as routers and gateways to limit the quantity of data transmitted and received only over a specific period of time.  Therefore this approach is temporary and is confined to temporary time frames.

WAN Optimization Controller

WAN optimization controller (WOC), another key technique in WAN optimization, maximizes the use of available bandwidth of circuits between data centers. The approach features data center-to-data center replication and data reduction techniques, like compression and de-duplication. The data reduction techniques virtually increase the available WAN bandwidth by multiple times, maximizing the return on investment of expensive WAN circuits.

To quote an example, the Eagle Bank, at Everett, MA, confronted with bandwidth limitation challenges, when they decided to move one of their existing backup systems to a disaster recovery (DR) data center away from its location. However, tests revealed that the replication time would hike up to ten days, far exceeding the bank’s recovery point objective of eight hours. The obvious alternative to add bandwidth to the bank’s existing WAN circuits came at a price. Additional monthly charges in this case. To overcome this challenge, the bank’s IT managers decided to maximize existing bandwidth by adding WAN optimization techniques to the existing networking infrastructure. Implementing WOC in their data centers showed much improved results with replication times dropping to 5.5 hours and average WAN performance increasing from 10 Mbps to 52 Mbps at a fraction of the cost of switching to other alternatives.

Optimization Techniques and Nature of Application

However, fact remains that the effectiveness of WAN optimization techniques depends on the nature of application and system landscape, as well as distribution and profiles. This is well reflected in the case of throttling bandwidth application, as it is not effective in solving a problem permanently but is vital in overcoming challenges in situations like peak data traffic hours. Therefore, evaluation, measurement, and planning are instrumental in selecting the right approach and deployment model to maximize the benefits of WAN optimization.

Over and above that, implementing WAN Optimization Techniques can seamlessly enable interrupted backups to resume automatically. To ensure business continuity, techniques such as running caches that store details of latest backup data, and automatically detecting a new connection to resume operational processes are proving vital. WAN optimization techniques are also important with more users opting for applications like real-time data mirroring and replication.

WAN Optimization—A Reliable Practice

From de-duplication to compression, and most importantly bandwidth throttling, WAN optimization techniques are used by replication and backup products to maximize available WAN bandwidth and minimize the impact of replication traffic on users and other applications. WAN optimization techniques also reduce the impact of latency and increases network reliability, thus becoming enablers of reliable networks, and are being widely accepted by global corporations.