Alexander Graham Bell

When Old is New Again

Alexander Graham BellWhen you think of a virtualized world, what thoughts come to your mind?

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with a clever idea tying-in virtual WAN optimizers with other virtual concepts. But, no great metaphor or analogy came to mind.

But, then I thought about how the invention of the telephone revolutionized the way we communicate, share information, and buy, sell and support products; I realized the telephone was one of the first technology advances that virtualized our world. No longer did you have to leave the house to visit with a friend who was around the block, or even in a different city.

Alexander Graham Bell was the inventor of the first practical telephone in 1876. Just consider how far telephone communications have come in the past 130+ years. I’ve been using phones my entire life. Yet, just in the last few years, my iPhone has dramatically enhanced my lifestyle. It’s a very different user experience from the standard land-line phone I grew up with.

Telephone networks aren’t the same either. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was a major overhaul of telecommunications law that allowed new businesses into the communications market. The intent was to create a more competitive market environment that had been monopolized by AT&T. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 affected not only local and long distance telephone services, it also brought in cable programming, and video and broadcasting services. Today, voice over IP (VoIP) and mobile networks are once again changing the dynamics of the telecommunications market.

All this network and device convergence is fantastic for consumers and business. But, as networks get over-provisioned, and the explosive growth from new applications, services and devices cause networks to be overloaded; services degrade, and users become painfully unhappy.

Hardware-based WAN optimizers appeared in the early 2000’s to alleviate this type of pain on data networks by optimizing data transfers, mitigating latency, and removing congestion. Initially, they were primarily used between headquarter data centers and branch offices. Their use has expanded to include data center-to-data center backups, data replication, data migration, and support business continuity and disaster recovery.

One of the most intriguing advancements in WAN optimization is the virtual WAN optimizer. A headquarter office or remote office can run multiple applications, including WAN optimization on one or two servers, using any of the many hypervisors on the market. This allows IT personnel to consolidate server hardware. Virtual WAN optimizers can also be controlled remotely from a network operations center.

They can scale, too. Adding capacity to a virtual WAN optimizer can be as simple as upgrading a software license key. Even though virtual WAN optimizers can be installed on low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware, or even installed on existing devices such as servers, routers and storage devices, you can find data center-class virtual WAN optimizers that can deliver high throughput. They can support data flows in the hundreds of thousands – providing even greater scalability than many hardware-bound WAN optimizers.

Virtual WAN optimizers save costs and complexity. The beauty of a virtual WAN optimizer is the ability to install them on your existing equipment. Their flexibility is demonstrated in their ability to be quickly and easily moved to other locations for moving big data to a secondary site, or, you can add a WAN optimizer instance to support a new branch office link.

Virtual WAN optimizers are very practical. They are easy to deploy, reduce hardware costs, are highly mobile, and provide high-availability protection. They not only make applications soar over shared and public networks, administrators can apply policies and rules to assign quality-of-service properties to specific applications and users based on business requirements.

Additionally, cloud operators can offer customers WAN optimization as a service for added revenue, or their customers can simply upload a virtual WAN optimizer to the cloud themselves.

If only Alexander Graham Bell could see the progressive technological and global changes brought about by his simple, yet revolutionary virtualization communication device.

The 21st century phone is unrecognizable from its primitive predecessors. Similarly, virtual WAN optimizers will continue to transform network reliability and performance.

Image source: flickr (mharrsch)

About the author
Marc Goodman