Window on WANs

May 25, 2012  12:45 PM

How to solve the video-bandwidth problem

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter
Video conference

The prevalence of video in enterprises is clear. Out of 140 network engineers, IT managers and executives who attended Interop 2012, 83% have deployed some form of video conferencing. Approximately 60% have a combination of video deployments, including desktop video, standard video conferencing and videophones — according to the sixth annual study released by Network Instruments.

While video currently consumes 29% of network bandwidth, respondents predict it will increase to 40% within the next year. In spite of this forecasting, respondents have only reserved 10% of their network capacity for video technologies, the report stated.

So where will enterprises find the bandwidth to offset the difference?

Some will turn to WAN optimization technologies to conserve bandwidth. But WAN optimization alone won’t be able to handle the already-compressed traffic of video; it will, in the very least, tighten up the bandwidth consumption of other applications. Intelligent IT pros will use a combination of video QoS techniques and WAN optimization while adding a little more bandwidth to avoid video conferencing blunders.

Yet, another solution to consider is cloud video, like Gina Narcisi reported in her recent article on putting video in the cloud: “Redirecting traffic off the WAN and onto the cloud is an idea that has vendors torn. Should enterprises select a ‘best of both worlds’ approach — a hybrid video cloud environment?”

Whichever approach is chosen, companies will need to act quickly.

“The rise in video has the potential to squeeze out other critical network traffic and degrade video quality due to the lack of network capacity. Without clear monitoring metrics and tools, it will be extremely difficult for IT to assess and ensure quality user experience,” said Stephen Brown, product marketing manager for Network Instruments.

May 9, 2012  7:46 AM

Exinda jockeys for position on application control at Interop 2012

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

You may not see Exinda in Gartner’s WAN optimization controller magic quadrant, but the 10-year-old  company does much of what Blue Coat and Riverbed are doing — accelerating traffic across your WAN to ensure a good application experience. The company is privately held, but profitable, according to the company. Exinda’s deals have increased 82% year-over-year, where one-third of its more than 600 new customer acquisitions have displaced incumbent competitors.

As the WAN optimization Magic Quadrant points out, the market has matured, but it’s nowhere near being a saturated market. There is plenty of room for innovation.  WAN optimization vendors today must capitalize on more than traditional optimization techniques.

So why are IT pros turning away from more established WAN optimization vendors to Exinda? Part of the answer is that the vendor understands businesses can’t take a “binary approach to optimization,” according to Brendan Reid, senior director of product marketing. He says you can’t accelerate everything because not every application is a priority. You don’t want that Xbox traffic from a college student’s dorm room to overtake the bandwidth needed to deliver a good BlackBoard application experience.

What’s been missing in WAN optimization technology up until now is application-level visibility and control. Visibility is the other half of the WAN optimization peanut-butter cup, according to Exinda Chief Marketing Officer Nolan Rosen.

WAN optimization must include visibility to determine what traffic to accelerate and when, echoing what Blue Coat said about selfish applications. Unlike Blue Coat’s take on WAN optimization, however, Exinda believes organizations shouldn’t optimize every application first.

IT professionals need to be able to accelerate the right application at the right time, Rosen said. You need to “know your audience to put in dynamic policies,” to accomplish this.

May 8, 2012  12:33 PM

Applications are selfish, Blue Coat claims at Interop 2012

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

LAS VEGAS — “Applications are selfish,” according to Blue Coat’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications Steve Schick, and Mark Urban, Senior Director of Product Marketing. They take up an incredible amount of bandwidth whenever they want to, no matter the cost. Applications have no regard for whatever else is on the network, they said in a one-on-one interview with at Interop Las Vegas.

Network monitoring graph
Enlarge diagram

Urban compares applications to children who only know about themselves, not how to function in the greater society of a network. “It’s all about them,” he says. So when an Apple iTunes update comes along (diagram shown left), it will take up your entire WAN link, causing problems for the rest of your business critical applications.

To be fair, that behavior is not necessarily the fault of the application or application developer, Urban says. After all, an application is only fending for itself to give end users the best experience possible. It’s up to the network manager to figure out which applications need priority over others in the context of their corporate bottom line.

But prioritizing WAN applications  — turning to quality of service (QoS) — is often not the first step an IT pro will take. Insteand, network professionals will turn to optimization first.

“It’s politically easier to optimize everything,” says Urban. This takes the responsibility off the IT pro to decide exactly which application must take priority. But more than that, IT pros frankly don’t know what is running across the WAN. Without the application visibility tools, there’s no way to know what you need to prioritize.

Visibility up to this point has been through packet capture applications or monitoring ports to know, for example, how much traffic is going out to the Internet. That’s all well and good, but network pros need a content view; they need to know which applications are going out to the Internet; are employees using YouTube?

The second step is to “contain applications when there’s contention on the network,” Urban says, once caching technologies have been put in place.

So WAN optimization must evolve from the simple caching techniques from days of yore to incorporate the visibilty and monitoring solutions so desperately needed across massive WANs.

View all our Interop 2012 conference coverage from Las Vegas.

April 9, 2012  4:55 PM

2012 North American IPv6 Summit this week

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

The 2012 North American IPv6 Summit is the largest regional IPv6 event this year. The Rocky Mountain IPv6 Task Force is hosting the event April 9 – 11, at the Grand Hyatt in Denver, Colorado.

Attendance at the event is up. While the usual reasons remain evermore apparent  — namely, IPv4 depletion and government mandates — a few new developments have urged IPv6 migration along this year:

  • It takes time to transition from IPv4 to IPv6; and that time is now. After over a decade of talking about IPv6, this is the year many industry experts see IPv6 trending from strategy to deployment.
  • In a study of 78 small to large corporate networks nearly a quarter of network devices are at or near a point where they will no longer be supported by the manufacturer — according to a recent Softchoice survey. As enterprises upgrade their network devices, many must redesign and future-proof for IPv6.
  • Vendors are finally creating IPv6-capable network appliances (like Riverbed’s RiOS 7.0), and network engineers need to know how those functions work.

Network professionals who scoff at an IPv6 transition aren’t exempt from its effects. If unchecked, IPv6 extension headers may affect router performance. In addition to performance, IPv6 security gaps remain,’s news writer Gina Narcisi explained in her most recent article — especially for those considering BYOD environments. Often times IPv6 networks are enabled on new mobile devices brought into enteprises. If a network manager does not know how to turn these “IPv6 shadow networks” off, they could open the door to unwanted traffic or malicious attacks.

If the resources above leave you with questions and you can’t make the North American IPv6 Summit, send your IPv6-related question to our IPv6 expert, Silvia Hagen at

March 25, 2012  7:25 PM

The next generation of WAN optimization

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

When WAN optimization entered the scene of networking technology it was often used as a Band-Aid: When an application ran too slowly or distance caused too much latency — WAN optimization came to the rescue. This was at a time when far fewer applications ran over a network and real-time applications were sparse. Now that voice, video, cloud computing and mobility have become common-place in enterprises, WAN optimization is entering the equation at early network planning stages.

Still, WAN optimization must do more to accommodate a mobile, cloud-driven and data-heavy WAN. Not only must WAN optimization be deployed in more places, it needs to evolve and accomplish more, according to ZK Research Founder and Principal Analyst Zeus Kerravala. But evolve to what and how? What features are WAN optimization appliances currently lacking?

Kerravala answers such questions in the article, video and webinar that follow:

March 9, 2012  10:18 AM

Silver Peak launches self-service station for virtual WAN optimization

Gina Narcisi Gina Narcisi Profile: Gina Narcisi

App stores have been such a success for Android and Apple that now a WAN optimization vendor wants to get in on the action. Silver Peak has decided to offer virtual WAN optimization controllers through a new online marketplace.

Silver Peak is touting the Virtual WAN optimization Marketplace—announced in late February—as a “self-service” store featuring the entirety of Silver Peak’s virtual WAN optimization appliance portfolio. Network engineers can go there to find use cases for products, watch videos on how to deploy them, download the software and get instant access to license keys. From this new store engineers can access and deploy these products anywhere in their network and across all common hypervisors.

Considering the nearly 8,000 free downloads the recently-released Silver Peak VX-X virtual WAN optimizer has received over the past six months, Rick Tinsley, president and CEO of Silver Peak may have been onto something when he said that the industry was ready for virtual WAN optimization, although it may have taken Silver Peak time to get used to the idea. As the needs and infrastructure of the enterprise change, virtualization is becoming more appealing to networking pros, especially in light of the potential cost saving opportunities that virtualization can provide.

In keeping with the idea of providing adapted WAN optimization offerings to users, Silver Peak believes that changing how these services are delivered and how users can acquire WAN optimization is just as important. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if other vendors look into user feedback to facilitate how they too can change up how they package and deliver WAN optimization and virtual WAN optimization to potential customers.

February 27, 2012  10:21 AM

Choosing the right VPN for your enterprise

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

As bring your own device (BYOD) policies proliferate in enterprises everywhere, security and remote access problems follow suit. Network engineers and architects have to ask not only whether employees should get a desktop or laptop, but what type of network and system remote workers are using to connect to the VPN, news writer Gina Narcisi reports. If finding a VPN solution wasn’t difficult enough, now IT must learn how to get the right VPN clients to the right devices.

Choosing the right VPN has never been easy, but author Chris Partsenidis offers this tip series to help ailing network pros narrow down VPN solutions that are both secure and affordable: logo

For more information on networking, VPN security and firewalls, visit, one of the few websites recommended by Cisco Systems in its world class Cisco Academy program.

February 13, 2012  3:13 PM

Blue Coat Systems-Thoma Bravo merger

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

Last December we reported Blue Coat would be acquired by Thoma Bravo. After a special meeting of shareholders held earlier today, that acquisition has turned into a merger between Blue Coat and Thoma Bravo. Blue Coat declined to comment (due to company policy) on whether this change was a result of the investor who sued Blue Coat over the Thoma Bravo buyout.

Such an unheaval has not prevented the Web security and WAN optimization vendor from announcing new advancements and offerings. In addition to being named a leader in Gartner’s 2012 WAN optimization Magic Quadrant, Blue Coat has added the ablity to optimize encrypted Flash video already this year. Like many industry experts and IT vendors, Blue Coat believes video traffic over enterprise WANs will become even more important than in prior years and sees it well-positioned for this trend.

February 2, 2012  2:23 PM

Mobile users left in the cold by websites for presidential candidates

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Enterprise mobility continues to challenge application delivery. Workers who access enterprise web applications on smartphones and tablets often find that the applications either render improperly on their screens or take forever to load.

It looks like political candidates are dealing with the same issues. If you’re in the mood to donate money to your favorite presidential candidate, don’t bother using your smartphone.

Web content optimization vendor Strangeloop looked at the campaign websites for President Barack Obama and each of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination. Of all the sites, only Mitt Romney’s had a site optimized for mobile users, according to Strangeloop CEO Joshua Bixby, who blogged about his review.

Bixby visited all of the sites with an iPhone and an Android device via 3G. He said all the sites were able to load on his iPhone within 10 to 20 seconds, but the load times on his Android device were terrible. Romney’s was the fastest at 21 seconds, but it failed to size properly. Other sites took several minutes to load, Bixby said.

Finally he noted that campaign websites are failing in their most essential mission: to drive revenue. Given that most campaigns haven’t optimized their sites for mobile users, the donate buttons on each site is either lost to mobile visitors or ineffective.

January 30, 2012  10:22 AM

What IT trends are redefining the wide area network?

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter
Mobility and a mobile workforce

The wide area network (WAN) as we know it is changing, and it’s thanks to the growth of video, big data, mobility and consumerization of IT. As these bandwidth-hogging trends make an impact on corporate WANs, IT is seriously considering the Internet for WAN connectivity. Broadband Internet is where bandwidth is less limited; it’s the most logical connection for cloud computing and SaaS; and it’s more flexible to boot.

To keep up with the evolving workforce, the WAN must be redefined. The new WAN will no longer be made of permanent virtual circuit (PVC)-type connections, like frame relay, which must be reprogrammed and configured with every change. The private WAN as we know it will be replaced by Internet traffic or IP. It will be the only transport flexible enough to keep pace with changing network traffic patterns — which no longer travel soley in the private WAN between branch offices and the data center; traffic will travel between branches and mobile workers, cloud networks and data centers.

“When the majority of our employees were in company locations and didn’t move, those older WAN technologies were fine. Now that we have highly mobile workers, IP is the protocol that fits the workforce best, and IP moreso than the Internet, [because] IP is highly dynamic, flexible and resillient. With Internet and IP technologies, you don’t need to do any reprogramming; it just knows where to go,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research.

And while trading out a leased line for an Internet VPN is more the exception than the norm, enterprises are certainly trending that way for WAN connectivity.

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