WAN Optimization Helps Businesses Work Faster and Smarter
As an IT manager and hard-boiled New Yorker, Dan Dorato, chief technology officer of Vector Media, doesn’t easily buy into marketing hype.
But Dorato’s experience with the WAN optimization features in the Cisco Meraki MX Series Cloud Managed Security Appliance turned him around forever. Last fall, he and his staff deployed eight routers in the company’s New York headquarters and five remote offices — a mix of Cisco Meraki MX60, MX80 and MX90 devices — in just 15 minutes.
The speedy implementation caught the CTO by surprise. “The deployment was simple, straightforward and effective,” Dorato says. “The cloud-based model is also a big plus, because all the networking information sits on a dashboard on a web page.”
WAN Optimization Pays for Itself
Dorato says the optimization and caching features of the routers have paid for themselves in less than a year. Vector Media’s employees need to access and transmit large graphics files as part of their daily work for the media solutions firm. Before the company deployed the Cisco MX routers, file transfers of large, 100-megabyte files could take up to an hour. In many cases, the staff had to resort to shipping flash drives overnight because the network was so slow.
Compressing the traffic can shrink 10MB files to 8MB, and 200MB Excel spreadsheets by 80 percent. In addition, with caching enabled, only the portion of a file that has been changed travels over the network. The rest resides in cache memory on the MX device.
According to Dorato, the results have been extraordinary. File transfers that previously took an hour to complete now take only a few minutes. What’s more, Vector Media has been able to downgrade its Internet connections at remote locations, saving thousands of dollars. For example, the Miami office was spending $1,200 per month for a 45-megabit-per-second Internet connection. The IT staff replaced it with a 20Mbps connection from the local cable provider that costs about $200 per month, for a savings of $12,000 per year.
“Translate that savings across all the remote offices and headquarters, and you see how the devices and software licenses have paid for themselves,” Dorato says. “By improving our file transfer speeds, our remote offices can communicate more easily with headquarters and one another.”
Bob Laliberte, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says Vector Media took advantage of the traditional benefits of WAN optimization.
“Vector Media had a known and well-defined problem, so they used the optimization and caching features to their advantage,” Laliberte says. “The application of the optimization technology was so successful that they were able to dramatically improve business processes while simultaneously throttling down the bandwidth. This let them generate a strong ROI in a very short timeframe.”
The percentage of survey respondents who say that the quality of the end-user experience is the leading indicator for evaluating WAN performance
SOURCE: “Five Key Trends in WAN Optimization” (TRAC Research, September 2012)
Optimizing Traffic for Mobile Users
Architecture firm Ware Malcomb resembles Vector Media in that its users work with very large graphics files. IT Director Moses Gonzales says it’s not unusual for engineers and designers to transmit 300MB Adobe Photoshop files to and from the company’s headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and its 12 locations around the world. In fact, he says 90 percent of the company’s traffic consists of Photoshop or 3D CAD models.
Many of the company’s employees work in the field on commercial job sites, so delivering fast access to files had become increasingly important over the past several years. Ware Malcomb turned to the Riverbed Steelhead Mobile device to optimize traffic for mobile users. Gonzales says the unit simply plugs into a standard Riverbed Steelhead controller, and users access the optimized network through a VPN.
“The idea is to provide faster access to users in our remote offices, as well as people in the field,” says Gonzales. “Today, more than half of our workforce works remotely or out in the field. Files that used to take more than a minute to access over the network now take seconds. It’s made a big difference.”
As wireless devices proliferate in businesses, IT departments need to develop a strategy to manage bandwidth for mobile applications. Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst Mark Fabbi offers three considerations for IT managers seeking to optimize mobile traffic.
- Identify which applications are mission-critical. Figure out which apps bog down the network or degrade user productivity. Start by developing a priority list of the mobile applications that are absolutely needed to improve performance.
- Determine the type of users involved. Does the company need a product that can manage traffic for users in remote offices or those who are mainly at home using a notebook computer? Or perhaps there’s a mix of tablets, smartphones and notebooks. The answers to these questions will determine which product manufacturer the organization chooses.
- Perform a proof of concept. Understand that mobile WAN optimization offers some important gains, but it may not deliver the complete benefits IT departments see with traditional WAN optimization devices. Once the IT staff comes up with a list of priority applications, conduct real-world tests to determine if mobile WAN optimization improves performance enough to justify the investment.