Is Your WAN Optimizer a Caterpillar or a Butterfly?

MonarchThe life cycle of a caterpillar/butterfly is amazing, and the metamorphosis, in particular, is nothing short of miraculous. Each stage of the process has a distinctive role and purpose. Caterpillars spend all their time eating, while butterflies spend all their time reproducing. The most radical part of the metamorphosis is the chrysalis stage where the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly.

Of course, this makes me think of WAN optimization. (Doesn’t everyone make that connection?) OK, the connection from butterflies to virtual WAN optimizers may be a stretch, but here goes…

WAN optimizers began life as “caterpillars” — increasing data transfer efficiencies in wide-area-networks (WANs) that moved traffic between data centers and branch offices. They improved network throughput, mitigated latency, and reduced network and application protocol transmissions. In addition to data-center-to-branch-office WAN optimization, WAN optimizers evolved to support data-center-to-data-center traffic, handling such things as data replication, back-up, data migration, and other business continuity and disaster recovery initiatives.

With the advent and growing deployments of virtualization and cloud computing, it didn’t take long for innovative companies to begin the chrysalis stage: working on developing virtual WAN optimization solutions. While hardware-based WAN optimizers have primarily been used to solve the problems indicated above, virtual WAN optimizers do all of the same things, while also delivering many other advantages. Virtual WAN optimizers provide options previously not available with hardware-based WAN optimizers. The benefits of virtual WAN optimization solutions include:

  • Software is downloaded, avoiding shipping costs and heavy taxes imposed on hardware imports
  • May be moved between physical hosts during hardware maintenance to ensure application delivery continuity
  • Can be uploaded to virtual servers within a cloud service
  • Able to be be integrated within cloud storage systems to improve data movement for cloud storage
  • Can handle rapidly changing workloads, allowing users to quickly spin up virtual WAN optimization appliances for migration, replication, and disaster recovery operations
  • May be deployed on any hypervisor and commodity hardware, including stand-alone servers, routers, blades, switches, and storage arrays
  • Flexible subscription pricing allows enterprises and service providers to turn them on/off as needed

Today, data center virtualization technologies have transformed and, in some cases, overtaken hardware solutions, lowering costs and providing greater deployment flexibility. WAN optimizers began life as hardware-based solutions designed to increase application delivery efficiencies over WANs. Today, the “butterflies” — virtual WAN optimizers — have taken off to deliver fast, flexible, and highly scalable network optimization that will help your networks take flight.

Image credit: Flare (flickr) – CC-BY-ND