WAN optimisation Day One: And the sysadmin saw that client/server was good

WAN optimisation is one of the hottest network technologies. But why is it needed? In the first part of a new feature, Ian Yates explains how WAN optimisation came to be.

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, client-server architecture was regarded as the nirvana to which all self-respecting systems administrators should aspire. Inner bliss awaited those who could achieve total separation from the old ways of the mainframe and mini-computer and embrace the new ways of the kick-arse PC with a modicum of back-end grunt provided by the PC-turned-server. And lo, this thing called LAN made it all possible, and this other thing called WAN even made it possible in the branch offices.

In fact, there never was anything wrong with this theory of computation and there still isn't, except for the small matter of managing the widespread cacophony of computers. If only the end-users would just use the things as work tools and stop loading them up with all sorts of whacky add-ons. If only the software vendors would stop releasing endless patches to fix their endless security holes.

Curses

Client-server computing really does kick butt - unfortunately it right royally kicks sysadmin butt at the same time.

So we built bigger tougher servers, a bit like the old mini-computers and mainframes we'd put out to stud some time ago, and dragged the processing back to the centre, leaving only the thinnest of clients out on the desks of the knowledge workers. When all they need is the equivalent of a working browser, they can pretty much pour coffee into their PCs and still manage to get some work done. And to make it all go as fast as it used to go we just upgraded the LAN to gigabit speed. Nice work, let's knock off early. Wait a minute, there's the help desk phone ringing off its cradle.

You're where? At a branch office? And your response time is how slow? Whoa! No need to be vulgar!

Can we afford to upgrade the WAN links to gigabit? Apparently not. This consolidation push has made it easier to manage the servers, back them up and keep them patched, since they're all in the data centre instead of under various secretarial desks, and we've saved a truckload in licensing fees, but something needs to be done about the branch offices. Without blowing the company profits on telco charges.

Welcome to the world of WAN optimisation, once occupied by a scant few vendors, but now crowded with players new and old, from start-ups to stalwarts. SearchNetworking spoke with several experts to find out the state of play in bit-squeezing and policy policing. Over the next few days you will hear from Bede Hackney from Packeteer, Con Nikolouzakis from Exinda Networks, Les Howarth from Citrix, Scott Janney from Juniper, Steve Dixon from Riverbed and Roland Chia from Dimension Data to explain this technology and its role in your business.

Tomorrow: What is WAN Optimisation anyway?

 

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