Since joining Silver Peak from Network Computing, where I was the editor and a blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to see virtualization and WAN optimization from a new perspective. And what I’ve found is that virtualization isn’t just making WAN optimization more convenient or easier to deploy; it is offering two little-discussed benefits that will help you in optimizing your networks.
The top-level benefits of virtualization are well known. Virtualization takes care of many of the operational issues that organizations have had with installing devices in branch offices or remote data centers. There’s no shipping cost and the whole installation process is faster and smoother than with physical boxes. Virtual appliances can be installed into servers in a rack, of course, but they can just as easily be deployed in standalone servers, in a server blade within a Cisco router or on a blade server. And best of all, customers ride the Intel performance curve.
I think what’s been less understood, though, is what WAN optimization means for vendors behind the scenes and how it will help network architects over the longer term. Carl Hubbard, Silver Peak’s vice president of engineering, mentioned as much to me recently. Carl is a hardware engineer by training, yet he was enthusing over the value that virtual appliances offered both customers and the vendor community.
“We completely change the purchase and delivery model of our IT appliances,” he said. “Instead of having to manage hundreds of boxes all over the world or tie up hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment for trials, both of which can be costly, now customers can download a virtual appliance faster than FedEx with less capital expense on our part.”
What wasn’t said, but certainly implied, is that Silver Peak is in a position to pass along those savings in hardware, installation, shipping and more on to the customer. Strategically, WAN optimization belongs anywhere there’s a WAN connection, and for most offices that means there is some network challenge that we at Silver Peak (and others) can address. These problems include correcting for packet loss (actually, that’s just Silver Peak), extracting more bandwidth from their lines and reducing latency in their applications.
Historically, the challenge has been that not all offices can afford to deploy WAN optimization. Virtualization changes all that.
Virtualization also means that new applications become possible. Joe Boyle, our virtualization product manager, made the comment that virtualization enables WAN optimizers to help customers in new ways. When I asked him what he meant, he pointed out that some industries are especially careful with the technology investments made in their branch offices and, as such, could never have afforded a WAN optimizer.
He added that a frequent case in point is retail. With virtualized appliances, retailers can install a network optimizer in the servers already situated in the branch and open up the site to use new technologies to increase revenue. These applications might include new point-of-sale applications, kiosks, HR applications and more.
Today, though, physical appliances still have their place. Physical devices can be easier to deploy in offices that lack an environment already configured for virtualization. Physical devices also have their place in environments that have the capacity to be configured for maximum reliability and performance.
All of this is great news for Silver Peak customers as they are no longer constrained by a vendor’s preconceived preference for virtualization or their preference for physical applications. By offering both options, Silver Peak offers the approach that’s best suited for a particular business – be it physical appliances for some offices or virtual appliances, whose possibilities are endless.