Is Your Network a Racehorse or a Pack Mule?

The great Seabiscuit was an undersized racehorse with a history of failure, but he went on to become a legend. Even though he was small, this horse possessed incredible speed. And when physical ability wasn’t quite enough, he had a winning heart that helped carry him across the finish line first.

Many IT organizations have networks capable of achieving Seabiscuit-like performance, but only perform like a loaded-down mule. I’ve heard story after story from network administrators that had such confidence in their networks, only to find themselves in a losing race to keep up with the ever-increasing demands for their bandwidth.

Unfortunately, public and shared networks suffer in performance and reliability. These networks can be as fast as Seabiscuit or as slow as a mule, depending on the types of applications that run on them and the amount of traffic going through them. They can also be unreliable because of long distances and the time it takes packets to travel from their source to their destination.

So how do you make a network that’s running like a mule run like a winning race horse? Let’s look, and find out how WAN optimization can make networks fly like the wind.

In the 1938 Santa Anita Handicap, jockey George Woolf thought he had Seabiscuit’s rival, Stagehand, beat, so he eased up on Seabiscuit, under-utilizing his tremendous speed and power. Stagehand began catching up, thanks to a smart jockey who knew how to harness his abilities, and they battled all the way to the wire to take first place. Shortly thereafter, Seabiscuit suffered further impediments due to a leg injury, causing him to delay his race against the great War Admiral. He had the speed and stamina to beat the larger horse, but his agility was compromised by injury.

Networks also face impairments that can render them slow and unreliable,  unable to release their full potential. They can get bloated with excessive and unnecessary data, and bogged down by bandwidth-hogging applications that take all the bandwidth for themselves, leaving little, if any, bandwidth for other applications.

All of these things that limit bandwidth, slow network performance, and lower network quality can be solved with WAN optimizers that use diverse technologies to reduce bandwidth consumption, mitigate latency, and control bandwidth usage. More advanced WAN optimizers improve network reliability by eliminating packet re-transmissions due to dropped or out-of-order packets.

But, let’s face it, performance is not only about how fast the network performs. Real performance is also about how quickly new networks can be setup and running, how easy it is to drop-in a WAN optimizer to support a new disaster recovery site, and how flexible network infrastructure is in adapting to changing business environments.

Software-based or virtual WAN optimizers solve many challenges associated with legacy hardware devices. They can be quickly and easily moved from one location to another, and if you need to add another WAN optimizer to support a new site and network, you simply buy another software license. Need to move up to a higher level of throughput? Again, simply buy a license upgrade. There’s no need to spend money on expensive proprietary hardware when you can install virtual WAN optimizers on low cost, off-the-shelf server hardware, or leverage the hardware equipment you already have, such as a server, router, switch, or storage device.

Racehorses are built for speed and agility. They can sprint fast, run long distances, and turn on a dime. Networks also need to be fast and agile. Seabiscuit finally met up with War Admiral at the Pimlico Race Course, where Seabiscuit won by four lengths, despite War Admiral running his best time for the distance.  Virtual WAN optimizers can deliver the speed and agility you expect and need from your networks to win the race against your competition.

Image credit: You As A Machine (flickr)

About the author
Marc Goodman