WAN management: Enterprises need orchestration, not just optimization

Enterprise networks have evolved, and so must WAN management. IT needs orchestration tools to accomplish WAN optimization.

Exinda Networks has added orchestration capabilities to its WAN optimization Suite, renaming the product the Exinda Network Orchestrator 7.0. The platform helps enterprises with WAN management, automation and coordination.

Cloud services, demanding applications, heavy volumes of remote traffic and mobile users have made networks more complex. WAN optimization is still critical, but enterprises need more help. Traditional WAN optimization tools that focus on data acceleration and compression aren't enough anymore.

"Old-school WAN optimization techniques are not what they used to be. This is where orchestration comes in. Enterprises still need basic WAN optimization, but need help with automation to make sure optimization is working in a more intelligent fashion," said Jim Rapoza, senior research analyst for Boston-based Aberdeen Group.

WAN management: Enterprises need orchestration, automation features

The latest version of the Exinda Network Orchestrator 7.0 coordinates and prioritizes the moving parts of an enterprise network -- including users, applications and devices -- to help IT focus on end user experience, instead of just making the network faster, said Ryan Tollofson, director of marketing for Exinda. The updated product -- which is available in a physical and virtual form factor -- combines Exinda's traditional WAN monitoring and optimization capabilities with analytics and reporting -- in the form of the new Solution Center, as well as a new recommendation engine for IT into one platform for WAN orchestration, he said.

"Traditional WAN optimization is not sufficient or holistic enough to handle today's problems IT is faced with, which include enforcing appropriate use of the network, ensuring resources for key applications, reducing WAN circuit spending, supporting new IT projects and troubleshooting network problems," Tollofson said.

Rather than just optimizing bandwidth usage, Network Orchestrator can help with WAN planning by providing user and resource analytics. It can also provide context around network resources so enterprises can understand how bandwidth is being used and if those priorities need to change -- like if resources need to be allotted for a new IT project or application, he said.

The Glennie School, a private K-12 boarding school for girls in South-East Queensland, Australia has been beta testing Exinda's Network Orchestrator and is using the latest version 7.0 in its live environment. The school accesses more educational resources online than in the past, and it didn't have the resources in place to handle the demands students and teachers were placing on the network, said Matthew Russell, IT manager for The Glennie School.

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"Teachers were instructing a class of 25 plus students to all view a YouTube video ... and numerous flash-filled interactive sites all at the same time," Russell said. "Needless to say, our 16 Mbps Internet was unable to handle it [and] we did not have the budget nor the means to increase our pipe."

Russell and his team were already using Exinda's agentless software to block specific active directory users and groups from access to restricted websites and applications. Shortly after installing Exinda, they began using other features, such as application reporting, web filtering and data caching, he said.

"Today, it is used to follow user and traffic trends to ensure we get the most out of our internet pipe and stay on top of student trends in social media applications," he said.

WAN management: Easing decision-making for IT

Exinda Network Orchestrator 7.0 helps IT make decisions about its network resources with its Solution Center feature -- an "app store" for WAN orchestration, Tollofson said. Within the 7.0 platform, IT will be able to look at a variety of typical problems and select from a catalog of reports -- including Voice over Internet Protocol performance and Salesforce.com performance -- to help with WAN management.

The recommendation engine -- which has been built into the revamped user interface -- offers suggestions regarding adjusting policies based on historical and real-time trends. "IT has had to do their own analysis and make their own decisions on what things to do and policies to apply," Tollofson said. "The system takes snapshots of the network, notices trends and makes recommendations on how IT can respond to those changes."

"An important feature today in any WAN system is the ability to make recommendations, and help enterprises with what they need to do, instead of just telling them that something is wrong," Aberdeen's Rapoza said.

The Glennie School's IT team likes the recommendation features that the Exinda Network Orchestrator 7.0 offers, which suggests control policies for certain applications -- like Dropbox and Tumbr, Russell said.

"This [feature] has prompted us to put it up on the big-screen in the office for the recommendations," he said. "Moving Exinda's interface front and center allows us to view and review trends as they are occurring."

While optimization is still the end goal, WAN orchestration is a process that includes optimization, with additional tools and information to speed up the process, Russell said.

"[The orchestration process] helps eliminate a huge percentage of guesswork. [WAN optimization] needs to be fast and effective so that it does not waste staff time and can cope with the changing trends in user activity," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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