March 2010

WAN Bandwidth Optimization

WAN Bandwidth Optimization

By: Kristin Masters

The corporate network has become an indispensable tool for virtually every enterprise. Yet businesses face several obstacles in building robust, economical networks that deliver the reliability necessary for business functions and applications. Traditional private Wide Area Networks (WAN) offer reliable connectivity but are expensive. WAN optimization offers an appealing solution, because it improves bandwidth and streamlines network traffic without requiring the purchase of additional bandwidth, and help with application performance

Wide Area Network Bandwidth Limitations
Advancements in IT mean that the prices of data storage, memory, and processing have fallen significantly. Despite this trend, the costs of Wide Area Networks still remain high. Meanwhile businesses face greater demands on these networks due to several factors:

  • The interface between Local Area Networks (LAN) and WAN can create a bottleneck of data transmission. While LAN generally has bandwidth to spare, Wide Area Networks extra bandwidth is usually quite limited. Thus businesses may be constrained in how they use their applications.    
  • Server centralization and the proliferation of new applications such as Voice over IP (VoIP) and video conferencing drive the need for more WAN bandwidth.    
  • Globalization and telecommuting place extra demands on a Wide Area Network. Not only do employees all over the world need access to business applications, but also phone service has been added to the suite of internet-reliant functions.    
  • Recreational websites like YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Hulu and others require greater bandwidth. Although many companies once banned these sites, they now comprise a significant component of multimedia services and marketing.

MPLS & Frame Relay work well but are expensive when compared with the cost of Internet connectivity. This forces businesses to make tradeoffs in how much bandwidth is deployed or even which locations justify high quality connections.

Wide Area Networks Alternatives
Business needs mean adding MPLS bandwidth is not always a feasible alternative. WAN Optimization can help on existing connections, or businesses choose to set up Internet VPN’s that use broadband connections. To get private WAN reliability over Internet connections they implement Adaptive Private Networking (APN).

Internet VPN’s use broadband connections (usually IPsecs and gateways) as a way to access more bandwidth capacity. Although this popular solution is relatively affordable, it does not always grant the quality necessary to make it viable for enterprise IT departments: single xDSL usually has insufficient upstream bandwidth and requires longer Mean Time to Repair (MTTR). Thus the Internet VPN functions not as the primary network, but rather as a backup to a private Wide Area Network.

Instead a growing number of businesses have turned to Wide Area Network optimization as an alternative. Perhaps the most popular method is Adaptive Private Networking (APN), which uses continuous measurement and packet-by-packet forwarding to take advantage of the best data transmission path available in real time.

Benefits of APN
A robust APN eliminates virtually all of the drawbacks of Internet connections, but at a fraction of the cost of MPLS and Frame Relay networks. The practice of bonding connections together to get greater bandwidth has been around for a long time, but Wide Area Network optimization through APN adds a new dimension: measuring performance to route traffic efficiently. These performance analytics allow the network to detect transmission problems and immediately reroute traffic around the trouble spot using a different pathway. While traditional Wide Area Network may use only a few of the available pathways, an APN takes advantage of all possible transmission routes.

Keith Morris, Vice President of Talari Networks, says, “Businesses are faced with a tricky problem of getting reliability without the added cost.” He notes that APN gives enterprise networks the reliability and predictability of private Wide Area Networks, with the economics of the Internet. Because businesses can combine bandwidth sources like residential DSL or cable to supplement private WAN bandwidth, they reap even greater benefits.

An APN makes perfect sense for enterprises that have multiple locations, especially international ones. “Bandwidth is even more expensive internationally,” says Morris, “and sometimes costs up to double what you’d pay for domestic bandwidth.” Regardless of the extent of a company’s APN adoption, the payback time is very rapid:

  • Enterprises that shift completely from MPLS or Frame Relay networks can see complete ROI within three to six months.    
  • When enterprises migrate partially to APN, they can get total ROI in six to nine months.    
  • The cost of APN is 45-86% that of monthly Wide Area Network expenditure, with 2 to 12 times the bandwidth.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of an APN is its versatility. Because it can be used with virtually any network configuration, an APN grants companies the flexibility to keep their existing private Wide Area Network , completely eliminate the Wide Area Network, or even add bandwidth using more economical sources. That ability to scale the system gives businesses additional flexibility, on top of savings.

Meanwhile the end-to-end QoS functionality exceeds the performance of traditional Wide Area Network. Although many enterprises implement traditional Wide Area Network for their reliability, an APN actually enhances that reliability because it enables a sort of smart data transmission that leverages multiple active paths, maximizing the better performance and price of consumer-oriented ISP services.

The Future of APN
As networking demands continue to grow, APN will undoubtedly take hold as a logical solution for enterprises seeking robust, reliable networks between remote locations. These two trends mean companies that adopt APN now will be poised and prepared for the next generation of enterprise networking. Due to continually increasing demand, it is doubtful that the cost of private bandwidth will significantly decrease relative to Internet and wireless bandwidth, making APN the best option for cost-conscious businesses both now, and in the future.

Adaptive Private Networking offers the optimum solution for enterprises that need the reliability of traditional Wide Area Networks without excessive expenditure. Coupled with their extended reliability and expanded bandwidth, APN also deliver the kind of dramatic cost savings that businesses have come to expect from their IT investments.