Window on WANs

Aug 20 2009   3:57PM GMT

Forecast calls for storage, network convergence in SaaS cloud computing

Tim Scannell Profile: TScannell

This has been a cloudy summer for most vendors in the WAN optimization and storage business, although it has absolutely nothing to do with the weather.

An increasing number of companies are relying on Web-based applications and software as a service (SaaS) alternatives — which are the essence of cloud computing — to channel resources to their users over both wired and wireless networks. As a result, the performance and reliability of those networks and point-to-point connections are critical to the success of IT operations – especially when dealing with a widely scattered and remote user base.

As SAP product manager and WAN optimization honcho Jana Richter says, “The more we go into these areas, where the applications are further from the users, the more the issue of accessing and using the applications in an optimally performing manner comes up.“ This is a primary reason why SAP, which is heavily vested in CRM and ERP, has dipped its toes into WAN optimization.

Although the network is important as the data highway, other technology segments have become equally important as indispensable elements in WAN optimization. One of these areas is storage, which explains why such leading players as EMC Corp. are suddenly very focused on cloud computing and such things as WAN acceleration, applications and data prioritization, and business continuity. In fact, the company has partnered for some time with Brocade Communications Systems and Silver Peak Systems toward that end, which from EMC’s viewpoint is the “seamless federation” between internal and external resources, according to an EMC spokesman.

EMC squaring off for net management

EMC is presently working with its network-oriented partners to develop improved management tools that extend across distributed storage systems and the much-hyped network cloud and to deliver more detailed metering of usage patterns. This system, now in public beta, can perhaps be used to charge back users of data resources that flow through various local and wide-area networks or to deliver more management and control to avoid any storms within these applications and data clouds.

The goal, of course, is to parlay storage and WAN capabilities into new business and service models that provide fast and effective content distribution, reliable access to cloud-based applications, and unquestionable backup and redundancy (both for business continuity and compliance). A more street-level objective, however, is to kick the stuffing out of companies like Google and Amazon, which have both carved out a significant business in storage and Web-based access to data.

(Full disclosure: Google is already a very active Silver Peak customer, with more than 100 sites worldwide optimized with the company’s WAN acceleration and prioritization technologies – which leads one to believe there is no such thing as exclusive alliances in networking. It is every WAN for itself.)

Some of the technology drivers that are fueling the nexus of storage and networking include virtualization, data and IT center consolidations, and convergence, according to the experts at Brocade. There are also some technology crossovers: real-time de-duplication of data, which comes from the storage world, plays very well into networking to eliminate delays created by transferring the same information again and again.

The entire field of WAN optimization is also changing as efforts move beyond just speeding things up to providing tools that offer real-time forecasting and preventive measures. This can result in improved capacity and business continuity planning for both networks and the distributed storage farms that dot Web-based clouds – all of which can mean sunnier days in terms of user productivity and network performance.

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