In many ways, this verse taken from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” published in 1916, says a lot about the decisions many organizations make today regarding their technologies.
Every day, IT managers and administrators must make critical decisions about their data centers. Many have already taken the path to a completely virtualized infrastructure. Others have gone down the road with some level of virtualization. Still, there are those who have not yet taken the virtualization road to any degree.
Over the past few years, many have lauded the virtues of virtualization – from cost savings to space saving, boasting its flexibility and ability to ease management and migration. There is no question – the virtualized data center has proven beneficial and successful to enterprises and service providers of all types.
As with most beneficial technological advances, virtualization also brings new challenges. For example, virtualization allows you to migrate virtual machines (VMs) between data centers but adds significant traffic overhead, as it needs to keep the active memory and the execution state of a virtual machine intact while transmitting over the WAN.
Next to reliability, there is probably nothing more important to a data center than performance. WAN optimization has proven to be a key set of technologies that enable fast application delivery for supporting delay sensitive and/or chatty applications. With the widespread adoption of virtualization, virtual WAN optimization controllers (vWOCs) represent the next-generation technology. They are adept at streamlining the transfer of large files between headquarters and branch offices and optimizing storage replication initiatives that are becoming more commonplace. The proliferation of hypervisors on a variety of devices such as server blades, routers, switches, and other devices is making it easy to deploy a vWOC and gain the many advantages. Beyond cost and space savings, there are many other reasons to deploy virtual WAN optimizers, including:
- Support for a variety of hypervisors
- Deploy vWOCs with other virtual machines
- Easily and quickly migrate vWOCs anywhere
- Eliminate shipping delays and other impediments
- Avoid costs associated with international duties and fees
- Gain flexible pricing with pay as you go (grow) licensing
If you choose to go down the road with a virtual WAN optimizer, keep in mind there are significant technical differences between vendor solutions. For example, you will want a solution with the capability of supporting high-speed WAN links, and one that supports the hypervisor(s) (e.g., VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft, as well as proprietary hypervisors from cloud providers) you are using. Also, make sure the vWOC can fully leverage your multi-core processors, so you can cost-effectively scale up performance.
There are great differences in the way vWOC vendors structure their product pricing. If you find one with “pay as you go (grow)” pricing, you can avoid the upfront capital costs associated with legacy WOC licenses. Pay as you go pricing will also give you investment protection because it enables you to start with a vWOC that might have relatively small capacity (based on your need today) and is priced accordingly. Then, you can upgrade to a higher-capacity vWOC when your need grows. You benefit by only paying the delta between the price of your first vWOC and the price of the new one.
A vWOC can give you great value in scaling performance economically. With this approach, if you need more throughput, it’s as easy as simply turning on a license key. If, for some reason, you no longer need the vWOC, you can simply stop paying for it at the end of the yearly cycle. If you currently have a legacy WAN optimizer, and the vendor is not giving you the help you need, there is a good chance they don’t have a virtual WAN optimizer that will meet your need. You might want to consider looking for another vendor.
When it comes to virtual WAN optimization, the road less traveled may soon be the road traveled by all.
Image source: Flick.r (Kevin Gessner)