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WAN acceleration comparison on a budget

Independent disaster recovery expert Paul Kirvan looks at how to make WAN acceleration comparison within a budget in this Expert Response.

[This story was updated February 2013] What are some WAN acceleration options that can speed remote replication that aren't so costly -- if any?

Aside from simply increasing the bandwidth of a connecting circuit -- e.g., from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps -- wide area network optimization techniques typically focus on ways to minimize the amount of data being sent over a channel, yet still carry the information desired. WAN acceleration typically involves deconstructing data at the sender and reconstructing it at the receiving end, if needed. The process typically occurs at both ends of the connection. Two approaches are used: 1) optimize the data prior to transmitting, so that the fewest number of packets will be sent; and 2) optimize the data as it enters the network, again so that the fewest number of packets can be sent.

Option 1 uses optimization software at the sending side, so that all unnecessary packets can be deleted prior to transmitting, leaving only the desired data to be sent. Software may also be at the receiving end, based on the algorithms used to deconstruct and reconstruct the data streams. Option 2 uses appliances at both ends of the channel that use proprietary algorithms to optimize the data as it is sent over the network. A partner appliance at the other end reconstructs the data streams into their original form for delivery.

When it comes to comparing different WAN acceleration options, Juniper Networks' WXC Series Application Acceleration Platforms ensure access to applications and services across the WAN. According to the Juniper Networks website, "these acceleration application platforms recognize and eliminate redundant transmissions, accelerate TCP and application-specific protocols, prioritize and allocate access to bandwidth, and ensure high application acceleration and availability at sites with multiple WAN links."

By comparison, the SonicWALL Inc. WAN Acceleration Appliance (WXA) series reduces application latency and conserves bandwidth to boost WAN application performance and user experience for organizations with remote and branch offices. From SonicWALL's website, "After initial data transfer, the WXA series dramatically reduces all subsequent traffic by transmitting only new or changed data across the network." The WXA deduplicates data traversing the WAN, thus reducing application latency and conserving bandwidth. Other acceleration features include data caching, metadata caching and data-in-flight compression.

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