By Vinay Gupta – Technical Consultant

If applications like SAP, Oracle, People Soft, and Voice/ Video over IP and or email are running over the WAN (wide area network) then optimization of the bandwidth is a must. Increasing the WAN bandwidth may work for a little while, but eventually, the problem of slow application response will occur again.

Common WAN performance issues are as follows:

  • Repeated bandwidth upgrades increase cost, yet fail to permanently increase performance.
  • Surges from recreation traffic cause urgent, interactive applications to struggle.
  • Enthusiasm for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) fades when callers routinely face stutter and static during peak network usage.
  • Intranet applications at the main data center offer easy access but poor performance.
  • ERP performance plummets whenever an employee syncs email at a branch office.

The above issues need to be addressed to maximize application performance and optimization of WAN. That can be done as follows:

  • Determine which applications, users, and locations consume the most available bandwidth.
  • Ensure network priority for critical applications, such as SAP, Oracle, Citrix, VoIP, and email.
  • Block and contain undesirable recreational and malicious traffic.
  • Apply compression and acceleration to maximize available bandwidth.
  • Improve and protect the performance of urgent and critical applications.
  • Contain important but less urgent traffic (such as large email attachments).

Here are some examples of an explosion of application demand:

Increased application traffic: An explosion of application size, user demand, and media richness.

Recreational traffic: Abundant traffic resulting from recent trends in Internet radio, MP3 and P2P downloads, instant messaging, Facebook, Skype, web browsing, interactive gaming, and more.

Voice/ Video/ Data Network convergence: One network that supports voice, video, and data. Their variety of bandwidth demands and performance requirements.

Webification: Applications with web-based user interfaces. Typically consumes 5 to 10 times more bandwidth than thick clients.

Distributed application: Enterprise applications that run over the WAN or Internet instead of being confined to a single location.

Server Consolidation: Combining data centers and reducing the number of application servers forces previously local traffic (high bandwidth, low latency, and low cost) to traverse the WAN or Internet (low bandwidth, high latency, and expensive).

Security: Worms, viruses, and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks are the top sources of network congestion.

Compress Everything: Without application-aware control features and proper management, compression may enhance the wrong applications — as in the case of just adding more bandwidth.

Use Probes: Probes provide low-level network information about protocol underpinning and connectivity troubleshooting but don’t address the problem or help diagnose it. When flow information on a per-application or per-database basis is needed, a probe only delivers packet rates on a per-interface or per-device basis. In other words, you won’t get the level of detail needed to differentiate SAP traffic usage rates, for example, or the ability to actually fix the problem.

Router with QoS: Routers perform a critical function in the network. However, their queue-based architecture is inherently flawed for delivering application QoS because they cannot detect congestion until after it has occurred. The ability to monitor, classify, control and accelerate applications is fundamental to delivering application QoS. And router cannot perform these functions. What is needed is a comprehensive solution that provides all of these application traffic management elements.

I have worked with some of the packet shaper/ optimizer in the past that were quite useful for analyzing/ shaping/ optimizing the traffic. The following products not only analyze/ shape/ optimize the traffic and show you what is traversing through your Internet pipe, but can give you a centralized reporting and management platform.

  • Packeteer (now BlueCoat)
  • Expand (now Riverbed)
  • Perbit Network