Demystifying WAN Optimization

May 26, 2021

Too often in the world of high tech, we get caught up in techno-speak (or as some call it, techno-babble). In many ways it is a natural outgrowth of describing highly complex networking concepts and techniques that defy any attempt to express them in more approachable terminology. We’re all guilty of it to some degree, but it seems to be especially prevalent than in the world of WAN optimization.

According to several industry analysts, the market for WAN optimization has shrunk slightly over the past few years. There are many possible reasons for this – IT budgets are always stretched, IT staff is dealing with dozens of competing initiatives, it’s easier just to throw more bandwidth at the problem, etc., etc., etc.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that the real value of WAN optimization has been lost among all the techno-babble. That’s a shame, really, because there are several key areas where WAN optimization can make a huge difference in performance (which equates to user experience) and in meeting corporate goals. Our handy-dandy infographic provides a quick overview; you’ll find more detailed information below.

As the infographic shows, there are three broad areas where WAN optimization can be of benefit: Throughout the network in general; within the data center; and in remote/mobile/branch locations.

Throughout the corporate network, WAN optimization in general reduces the total amount of data transmitted, and dramatically improves TCP performance. Data transmission reduction is accomplished through content-aware data de-duplication, which recognizes and eliminates traffic that has previously been sent or stored. Array’s aCelera uses a single instance store, which provides a scalable resource to implement data differencing so that unchanged data is not sent over the network twice. The store also prevents multiple copies of the same data from being stored and maintained and enables predictive preloading based on usage patterns. Compression further enhances data reduction.

TCP optimization is another function that can make a dramatic difference in WAN performance. It makes transfers more efficient across the WAN and enables better utilization in both high and low bandwidth environments, provides faster recovery after packet loss, and enforces fair bandwidth use with other data flows.

In the data center, disaster recovery and backup can be a particular pain point. If recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives (RTO/RPO) are not met, it can expose the organization to risk of data loss in the event of disaster (or more recently, ransomware). WAN optimization uses data caching and differencing to reduce the total amount of data that must traverse the network to achieve an accurate backup, i.e., rather than transporting every single byte of data, only data that has changed since the last backup is copied to the backup servers. Bandwidth requirements and replication times are reduced by 2x to 5x, helping to meet RTO/RPO goals.

In addition, WAN optimization can improve app server performance through protocol optimizations, and through stream-based differencing. The latter detects which data has been previously delivered to local data stores, and avoids re-sending the duplicate data. Together, these functions eliminate redundant and chatty traffic to streamline server efficiency.

For mobile and remote workers, aCelera offers either a mobile app or a Windows client for the endpoint devices, which communicates back to the corporate WAN optimization controller to optimize application performance, and traffic throughput, prioritization and security. These capabilities can help ensure a seamless audio, video and VoIP experience for end users.

Branch offices can implement inexpensive, lower-end WAN optimization appliances or virtual appliances to gain the same types of performance and quality boosts afforded to mobile/remote workers through an app or Windows client.

As you’ve seen, WAN optimization can make a huge difference in network and application performance, throughput (both of which impact end-user experience) and the ability to meet corporate goals such as RTO/RPO. To learn more about Array’s aCelera line of physical and virtual appliances, as well as iOS/Android app and Windows client, visit our aCelera product overview page today.

Evelyn Miller