Managing large branch operations over the wide area network (WAN) has long been a challenging and expensive proposition. But SDN WAN optimization and security applications may reduce operational headaches for IT organizations.
Why the need for new WAN optimization strategies?
Large organizations often have hundreds or even thousands of branch offices that require reliable connectivity to the WAN, internet, cloud-based applications and the enterprise data center.
These branch WANs require low latency, low packet loss, high reliability, traffic prioritization for multimedia apps such as Voice over IP and video, as well as management and security -- often with varying policy requirements for each branch or remote office.
Generally, branch IT management needs to be done remotely or be simply enough for nontechnical staff at those remote locations. Essentially, for enterprises with a complex network of branch offices, IT organizations must remotely manage a complex mix of technologies, including local server and storage resources, branch routers, WAN optimization appliances, and security appliances, such as firewalls.
New SDN WAN optimization strategies emerge
WAN optimization improves the efficiency and reduces latency connectivity between the branch and data center, as well as between data centers. WAN optimization techniques include data compression, data deduplication, caching and traffic prioritization.
These are especially important now that a smaller percentage of traffic is bound for the central data center location, and more distributed traffic patterns creates the need for enhanced security. With the advent of bring your own device and cloud appliances, IT can no longer provide a fixed security perimeter and must address advanced security threats at the branch office.
SDN advantages for remote branch operations
SDN offers several advantages for branch operations. For one thing, using centralized SDN controllers allows IT organizations to create policies at the data center that can be pushed out to branch locations. This makes it a lot simpler for on-premises IT staff to manage remote branches and even tailor a custom policy for individual remote offices or groups of remote offices.
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This same centralization improves security. Using SDN controllers, engineers can customize policies to address advanced security threats at remote locations. What's more, SDN enables the use of virtualized software that can push WAN optimization, security and routing functions to the branch, which means fewer hardware appliances to manage, in addition to flexibility. Ultimately, SDN technologies can provide application programming interfaces to glue together WAN optimization, security and management functionality at the branch.
Finally, improved automation and centralized management can reduce Opex and minimize the need for IT professionals to visit branch locations.
Vendors to watch
Riverbed, a leading supplier of WAN optimization appliances, has expanded its offerings to include options for software-based and cloud-based WAN optimization. Cisco offers WAN optimization as part of its branch routing offerings and has SDN offerings in the works. Smaller network vendors offering a variety of innovative branch WAN solutions include Silver Peak, Talari Networks, Vello Systems, Aryaka, Ipanema Technologies, Netsocket and Pertino. A number of leading IT suppliers, including IBM, HP, Dell and EMC, offer "branch in a box" solutions (often via partnerships) that include networking (as well as server and storage) functionality in one physical platform.
This was first published in October 2013