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Contributing Writer

Beyond WAN Optimization

Aug 02, 20113 mins
Cisco SystemsCitrix SystemsData and Information Security

Growing portfolio of centralized applications exacerbates need for network monitoring

Large organizations have been centralizing IT resources for at least 10 years now, moving systems, applications, and services from remote office/branch office (ROBO) locations to central data centers. Of course, this means that remote users are accessing applications and files over WANs rather than high-speed LANs. Given this, how can IT managers maintain reasonable performance and SLAs? Historically they looked toward a combination of two types of networking solutions. They either purchased additional WAN bandwidth from network services providers, deployed WAN optimization controllers, or did both. Yup, there’s nothing like that tried-and-true IT standby — “throw more hardware at the problem.” For the most part, this basic strategy worked fine in the past, but unfortunately it no longer does. Why? Large organizations have moved beyond centralization of email and file shares. Now they are serving up a growing potpourri of web applications, collaboration applications, communications services, video, etc. As network traffic grows more diverse and complex, throwing hardware at the problem no longer makes sense. This situation is illustrated in a recent ESG Research Report, “Remote Office/Branch Office Technology Trends.” When asked to define their top challenges for supporting IT requirements for ROBO locations, IT professionals responded with these issues (note: top 4 responses presented here):37% “WAN performance management”34% “Monitoring WAN traffic”32% “Identifying, prioritizing, and accelerating application traffic on the WAN”30% “Managing latency-sensitive applications like video and IP telephony”Clearly, in spite of all of its benefits, IT consolidation comes with a cost. If we are going to serve up all kinds of applications and services from central data centers, we have to get a lot smarter about network congestion and application behavior. A few further thoughts here:1. WAN optimization vendors like Blue Coat and Riverbed saw the writing on the wall years ago. Blue Coat acquired Packeteer while Riverbed bought Mazu and CACE Technologies. While large companies need WAN optimization controllers and network monitoring tools, most firms have different teams in each area. Network management vendors like CA, Compuware, HP, NetQOS, Netscout, and Opnet should also benefit from the growing need for better network visibility.2. Citrix is pushing a standard called AppFlow focused on cloud application delivery. Given this data, AppFlow may also play a role for WAN-based applications and services.3. We are at the point where we need better strategies and capacity planning for application delivery. In a few years, remote offices will consume a myriad of centralized services and cloud computing applications. How will we guarantee SLAs? How can we monitor performance? How will we troubleshoot problems? Networking vendors like Cisco and Juniper as well as carriers like BT, NTT, and Verizon should lead this discussion. There will also be service opportunities galore for the likes of IBM and Unisys.

Contributing Writer

Jon Oltsik is a distinguished analyst, fellow, and the founder of the ESG’s cybersecurity service. With over 35 years of technology industry experience, Jon is widely recognized as an expert in all aspects of cybersecurity and is often called upon to help customers understand a CISO's perspective and strategies. Jon focuses on areas such as cyber-risk management, security operations, and all things related to CISOs.

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