The wide area network (WAN) as we know it today is evolving. Over the past decade, many organizations have deployed hardware appliances to help speed up the WAN links between data center sites, as well as between primary data centers and branch offices in remote locations. The new reality of virtualized server infrastructure and cloud computing, however, is driving the demand for a software-defined approach to WAN acceleration. Silver Peak’s virtualized WAN acceleration software is helping to meet this demand.
The Need for Speed
One of the prime benefits of virtualization is that it enables businesses to roll out new application services very rapidly and cost effectively. With this capability, however, is the increased need to migrate virtual workloads across servers, between data centers, or out to the cloud, as business demands dictate. This in turn has created a need for faster and more reliable network connectivity to handle the network payload generated by these “VMotion” migration activities.
In addition, other factors are creating an increase in WAN data traffic. For example, voice over IP (VoIP), desktop video conferencing, data replication and the increased consumption of public cloud services are all increasing the volume of data traversing already congested WAN links.
WAN optimization technologies, like those from Silver Peak, allow businesses to increase the efficiency of existing WAN links without requiring an increase in carrier bandwidth and/or an upgrade of the physical networking infrastructure. This is a critically important capability, as it would typically take weeks or months to increase WAN bandwidth connectivity otherwise, and at a much greater overall expense. In an increasingly cloud driven world, the speed of the network literally translates into time-to-market or time-to-revenue. It also helps determine how nimble organizations can respond to changing market dynamics.
Software Driven Deployment
A virtual based approach to WAN acceleration is a “friction-less” way to optimize WAN links and to groom the network paths for virtual workloads to ride on. In other words, it obviates the need to ship and integrate hardware appliances that only increase logistical complexity and slow down time-to-market. This is particularly true when there is a need to improve network connectivity out to remote or branch office locations or to accelerate application workloads deployed into public cloud environments.
Shipping and installing appliances takes time and is costly. A software based approach, on the other hand, can be done from a central location and configured on a local or remote host anywhere in the world – whether inside the enterprise or at a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) facility. Furthermore, when appliances need to be upgraded to provide more processing power, it requires a physical “box swap”. Software based approaches, on the other hand, merely require an upgrade to a new license.
Silver Peak’s Virtual Acceleration Open Architecture (VXOA) allows organizations to deploy WAN acceleration technology as either a virtual or hardware appliance. In either instance, there is no requirement to deploy application agents or plug-ins as the technology will work natively with all existing server, networking and storage hardware infrastructure. In addition, the Silver Peak software is fully compatible with all major hypervisor platforms – VMware, Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and KVM.
Accelerated Cloud Bursting
When deployed as a virtual appliance within the hypervisor, however, system administrators can accelerate network connections at a virtual machine (VM) level. This can be more beneficial than an equivalent hardware based deployment due to the granularity it provides organizations to allocate limited bandwidth resources. For example, under this model, only the most performance sensitive VMs, like real-time clustered applications or cloud burstable VM workloads, can be selected for accelerated WAN connectivity. This enables organizations to meet critical business application service levels while maintaining WAN and server efficiencies.
Virtualize First Compliance
Another major benefit to a virtualized approach to WAN acceleration is that it helps organizations to comply with “virtualization first” initiatives. As businesses continue to consolidate data center infrastructure, a common policy is to only roll out new applications on virtualized server platforms. Obviously, deploying WAN acceleration as a VM doesn’t require any new purpose built hardware; rather it can leverage existing x86 resources in the data center. Moreover, with increased adoption of cloud computing services, organizations need ways to improve WAN connectivity out to CSP facilities without the need to ship a hardware appliance. The Silver Peak software provides all of these important capabilities.
Data Highway Traffic Jam
As discussed previously, the twin forces of server virtualization and cloud computing have generated greater demands for faster and larger network bandwidth connectivity. Add into this mix the growth of unstructured or Big Data (millions of user files, images and rich multimedia), and you potentially have the equivalent conditions of a 20-car pileup on the freeway at the height of rush hour. To stave off network latency and poor application performance, therefore, organizations need to find cost effective ways to reduce network congestion and help ensure application quality of service (QoS).
Long-Distance Latency Relief
The challenge of network latency becomes particularly acute in today’s bandwidth-hungry environments. Although latency is present within any network, practically, its effects are only felt as data travels across long distances, such as between branch offices and the data center and in larger volumes.
Consider this: an organization can realize the full bandwidth of a 100 Mbps connection within an office, but on a perfect coast-to-coast 100 Mbps connection, throughput will be limited to just about 10 Mbps. With .1 percent packet loss, typical of a MPLS connection, throughput drops to just 7 Mbps.
Silver Peak reduces network latency by making the underlying protocols more efficient. Through techniques such as forward error-correction and packet order correction, Silver Peak helps reduce network packet loss and minimizes the need for data re-transmissions. This helps alleviate network congestion and improves overall network integrity.
The Road Less Travelled
In addition, Silver Peak’s “Dynamic Path Control” feature intelligently identifies the most optimal WAN path for data to traverse based on real-time network traffic conditions. As an automated or optionally, user-definable setting, this feature helps to load balance network traffic payloads between redundant connections; giving businesses more value for their WAN network investments.
Silver Peak’s VXOA capabilities have the net effect of increasing the effective network bandwidth so that more voice, video and application data traffic can cleanly transmit over existing WAN links. In fact, by simply grooming WAN connections with a virtual WAN acceleration deployment, Silver Peak claims that some of their customers have seen a 20x improvement in terms of the amount of traffic that can successfully transmit over their existing WAN bandwidth links.
Data security has become an increasing concern for many organizations and now with more data going between data center sites, out to remote offices and into the cloud, there is a pressing need to ensure that this information will not be compromised. Silver Peak’s IPSec software provides a highly secure site-to-site VPN connection by applying AES-256 bit encryption with SHA-1 authentication on data in flight.
As an embedded value-added software component of the VXOA platform, IPSec enables organizations to gain the benefits of both WAN acceleration and secure encryption without having to purchase and deploy two separate technologies. This saves businesses time and money while helping to ensure the timely and secure transmission of their critical business data.
Accelerated Business Benefits
By increasing their effective network bandwidth through WAN acceleration, organizations can support the reliable transmission of data for multiple business applications. From VM migration and virtual desktop deployments (VDI) to real-time data replication, backup data vaulting and video streaming; amongst other use cases.
Furthermore, from a remote office and branch office perspective, virtualized WAN acceleration can better enable remote office users to utilize cloud services without necessitating an increase in bandwidth or networking hardware infrastructure.
Virtual-aware WAN acceleration technology has become an essential component of today’s private and public cloud computing environments. Many corporations have adopted a virtualization first approach for implementing new business services and as such, technologies which can non-disruptively work alongside virtualized business application workloads, dovetail perfectly into this strategy.
Silver Peak’s software-based approach enables organizations to leverage existing x86 resources to accelerate virtualized workloads at a VM level. This granular level of software-defined WAN acceleration enables organizations to selectively optimize WAN connections for the most business critical services. This helps businesses to consistently meet application service level agreements, despite the inevitable increase in network congestion that is being generated by ongoing data growth.
The flexibility of a software-defined approach to WAN acceleration also enables organizations to confidently burst application workloads into CSP environments to augment their computing infrastructure needs; whether for primary data centers or remote office or branch office locations.
Silver Peak is a client of Storage Switzerland