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Is WAN Optimisation enough?

01 Apr 12

In a word, no.Don’t get me wrong, WAN optimisation and acceleration is very important to the overall health of your network and your business success.
However, optimisation and acceleration have a limit. There is only so much performance you can squeeze out of your network. At some stage, organisations are still going to reach a level of traffic that the network cannot cope with.
So what do you do then? Do you just put up with it, or do you deploy more resources than you typically need in order to cope for peak traffic periods?
What is needed is a solution that will monitor the network and take the appropriate action when the performance and network hits its limit.
You are probably wondering what that appropriate action is right? Well, it comes down to the business and the applications that are critical.
Let’s consider a business in which all users (staff and customers) are accessing the same application.
It is early December and traffic to an e-commerce site is building in the lead-up to Christmas, with the busiest periods causing network slowdowns to the service. The company decides to use a two-fold approach to optimise the traffic. First, they decide to differentiate between people who have visited the site regularly (and spent lots of money), and those who have visited only infrequently. Second, they decide to assess each user based upon the value of what they have in their shopping cart. This means that in some cases the value of the item in an infrequent visitor’s shopping cart will trump a frequent visitor’s status in terms of traffic.
What the organisation requires is a traffic manager like that found in Riverbed’s Stingray portfolio. This kind of traffic manager is deployed in front of the application servers so it is able to evaluate the visitors, and hence, improve performance accordingly.
For example, an automatic scaling feature can allow the traffic manager to communicate with a backend provisioning system and arrange for more resources to be made available as needed. In other words, you can fast track those customers more likely to close a sale.
Essentially, what we are doing is optimising the optimisation through smart management. In this case we will have two pools of servers for the traffic manager to select from: a normal pool with three servers in it, and an auto-scaling pool that starts with zero servers in it. When the normal pool is coping with traffic happily then all users connections are directed and load balanced to these servers. When it starts to get busy, then users with larger values in their shopping carts are directed to the auto-scaling pool that immediately starts to add servers as they are required (either to a limited number or until the service hits an acceptable level of responsiveness).
If you imagine the network like a highway, essentially you are adding more lanes and re-directing the most promising traffic onto those lanes.
The end result is that traffic/users/applications are prioritised and handled in the way the business needs them to be, based on the changing circumstances and the logic rules put in place. This is the key to a good traffic scripting manager.
So to address the initial question once again, no, optimisation and acceleration are not the be-all and end-all of network performance; they are just important steps to achieving the desired outcome. What is important for organisations is to use a holistic approach that uses the resource available to its furthest limit, but when that resource reaches its limit, additional tools and strategies need to be applied to ensure business objectives are reached and even exceeded. 

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