The What and Why of WAN Optimization: Top Considerations

WAN optimization helps network performance

In today’s corporate environment, a considerable number of businesses have wide area networks (WANs) in place to ensure effective online communication across geographically-dispersed locations. When these networks aren’t performing up to their potential, though, many decision-makers will consider WAN optimization technologies to further improve data transmission over the WAN.

What exactly is WAN optimization?
TechTarget contributor Margaret Rouse explained that WAN optimization and WAN acceleration are technologies added to the wide area network infrastructure to enhance data flow across the network. Overall, these systems seek to boost the speed of applications and content access while also reducing network latency that can cause performance to suffer.

WAN optimization includes traffic shaping, data replication for disaster recovery, network monitoring, downloading standards, data compression and protocol spoofing for bundling protocols.

When should businesses consider WAN optimization?
Virtualization Review contributors Greg Shields and Don Jones noted that one of the main use cases is when the network utilization levels reach 50 percent or more. This can cause latency and slow data transmissions, and in such a case, WAN optimization technologies can provide an impactful improvement to performance.

Networking expert Steve Schall also noted that when deciding between WAN optimization technology and increasing network bandwidth, the general rule of thumb centers around return on investment. Especially in the enterprise sector, ROI is an important consideration, as if the solution won’t pay for itself in six months or less, another approach may be necessary. More often than not, WAN optimization will provide this ROI in terms of network performance and usability.

What should be considered with WAN optimization deployment?
There are several considerations to make when companies look to deploy WAN solutions.

“WAN optimization has evolved from a tactical deployment into a strategic one,” Cisco stated on its website. “Improving network utilization and increasing application performance remain important considerations, but [are] not the only ones.”

Other aspects to factor in include:

  • Network transparency
  • Interoperability with applications, monitoring tools, network quality of service tools, and VoIP networks
  • Partnerships with application vendors
  • SSL optimization
  • Quality delivery of streaming video
  • Hybrid caching architecture
  • Acceleration of data center applications
  • Network virtualization
  • Availability and scalability

In addition, the WAN optimization system should take into account the needs of mobile workers, and be able to integrate with applications and data center services.

“Integration with the existing network platform and interoperability with other services and applications are paramount to any strategic development scenario,” according to Cisco. “When strategically deployed, a WAN optimization solution enables IT organizations to reduce costs, improve productivity and consolidate remote site infrastructure.”

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