The main challenges when running applications across a WAN are related to latency, packet loss, jitter, congestion and generally inefficient protocols. Depending upon the application(s) in question the issues to address will vary. In general any TCP based application will experience diminished throughput when run across a high latency (e.g. 50ms or more) WAN. The diminished throughput is inherent in the design of the TCP protocol (it is not a problem per se but just part of the design philosophy of TCP) and contrary to popular belief can not be solved by throwing more bandwidth at the problem. The most expedient way of overcoming this problem is to deploy WAN optimization appliances.
Problems related to jitter and congestion are most commonly felt by real time applications such as VoIP or Video. These can often be solved via a well architected Quality of Service implementation which priorities real time traffic above other less time sensitive traffic or with advanced data reduction techniques. F5 WANJet offers a very robust QoS implementation that can mitigate real time application performance issues and also offers patented advanced data reduction techniques which can decrease bandwidth consumed across a WAN link by up to 95%.
Finally, there are certain protocols that are just plain inefficient. One example is Microsoft's Common Internet File System or CIFS which is the protocol that underlies Windows file sharing. It is a de facto standard and comes pre-bundled with all Microsoft-based client (e.g. XP) and server (e.g. Server 2003) platforms. CIFS was designed back in the 1980s when the networking paradigm was quite different from today. At that time, no consideration was made for how CIFS would operate over a high latency WAN link. F5 WANJet offers a CIFS acceleration capability that can provide 3-5x improvements in overall CIFS performance across a WAN.
For more information, there are several white papers available from WAN optimization vendors in the SearchNetworking white paper library.
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