To address common problems with their wide area networks, IT shops need a well-stocked toolkit. The primary problems that plague WANs — and the techniques and technologies for addressing them — include:
Techniques that optimize bandwidth include data compression and reduction. IT can reduce the data it stores and sends over WANs through deduplication (to remove redundancies) and caching (which leverages a stored version of recently requested data). WAN optimization controllers (WOCs) are the primary technology supporting compression and reduction. Web security gateways include some of these capabilities as well.
Application misfires can be addressed by deploying an ADC near the application server. Other options include leveraging WOCs that include optimization features and instituting web layer controls using web application firewalls.
When applications compete for network resources, the resulting contention slows performance. Addressing this requires traffic prioritization, using QoS tools and WOCs, as well as better bandwidth allocation. Next-generation firewalls incorporate basic bandwidth management and prioritization.
To improve reliability by reducing link downtime, organizations may deploy multiple links at various network points and then attempt dynamic routing and link balancing. Most use combination router/VPN devices or edge firewalls built on routing protocols.
IT shops tackle reliability through load balancing. Local load balancing takes advantage of a Layer 2 or Layer 3 ADC device that forwards requests based on a set algorithm. Global load balancing, designed to provide balance across data centers, is more complicated and generally less effective.
WAN security solutions include access control tools, anti-malware, intrusion prevention, web security gateways and proxy servers. Leveraging their position on the edge, next-generation branch firewall devices include some of these security features, allowing IT to get additional return from their firewall investments. Web security gateways and proxy servers include limited web-oriented WAN security.
Want to learn more? Check out CDW’s “Top Network Optimization Projects for 2014” white paper.