Although the business case for wide area network (WAN) optimization is compelling, the last thing a WAN manager wants is another branch office box to babysit. Virtual WAN optimization appliances that run on standard servers provide an alternative, but sometimes even one branch server is one too many. Silver Peak Systems is opening up its architecture to enable its WAN optimization software to run on any capable network or storage device.
"It helps make WAN optimization ubiquitous," said Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president and distinguished research fellow at Yankee Group. "What's important for companies to think about is moving WAN optimization from being a very tactically-oriented technology—i.e., my Exchange isn't performing well, so I need to put a box in—to something more strategic."
Silver Peak recently announced its Virtual Acceleration Open Architecture (VXOA), which introduces support for more hypervisors in addition to a software developer's kit (SDK) and new application programming interfaces (APIs) for its virtual appliances.
Silver Peak also released two subscription-based pricing structures for its virtual appliances—a standard monthly pay-as-you-go model to replace a perpetual software license with a month-to-month agreement, and a "pay-as-you-grow" option for perpetual licenses that enable customers to upgrade and downgrade capacity as needed.
The architecture refresh enables Silver Peak’s VX and VRX series software to run on any capable third-party hardware device, such as routers or storage arrays, according to Larry Cormier, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Silver Peak.
Will Hosek, CTO of SurePrep, a tax and accounting software company based in Irvine, Calif., deployed Silver Peak's VX-1000 software in Irvine, Seattle and Mumbai to improve virtual desktop performance for his users in India. Wanting to avoid the expense and hassle of shipping hardware overseas, Hosek opted for the software-based approach.
Although Hosek had not tested or researched the new WAN optimization software architecture, he said the concept of further consolidating hardware is always attractive.
"We just finished one [server consolidation project] and we're starting another one. We're always looking for ways to get the most out of our infrastructure," he said. "Anytime we can find a way to increase the functionality of a given device without increasing risk, we certainly take it."
Virtual WAN optimization software needs robust hardware
Silver Peak appears to be the first vendor to announce complete support for any vendor's hardware platform, but it isn't the first to support WAN optimization software on a non-server device.
Cisco Systems has long supported its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) software as a module on its Integrated Services Router (ISR) and last year introduced WAAS Express software for the ISR G2. Riverbed Technology announced a partnership with HP in 2007 to run its Steelhead WAN optimization software on blades in ProCurve ONE switches.
Ideally, you want to be able to integrate WAN op into your network strategy.
Senior Vice President and Distinguished Research Fellow, Yankee Group
Silver Peak customers had successfully run their software on Cisco ISRs, Cormier said, but this new architecture introduces formal support for any capable hardware device and any hypervisor platform. Silver Peak's VX and VRX products had previously only been supported on VMware's vSphere platform. At minimum, the host device would need two CPUs, 500 megabytes of RAM and 2 gigabytes of storage to support the lowest-end virtual appliance, he said.
Silver Peak also announced a successful proof of concept with Avaya's Secure Router (SR) 4134. The architecture changes—available for free to existing Silver Peak customers—are more to do with hardware consolidation than adding any new functionality, Cormier said.
"Especially in the branch office scenarios, people are trying to reduce the number of devices out there," he said. "If they don't have to put a server up there to run the virtual [WAN optimization software] and can run it on an existing router, that's a big win for them."
WAN managers who want to run virtual WAN optimization software on non-server devices must ensure "that the platform it's running on indeed has enough horsepower" for the software's current and future needs, said Yankee Group's Kerravala. A Juniper router, for example, "doesn't have that capability to partition off an application," such as WAN optimization software, he said.
"Riverbed and Silver Peak are very, very disc-intensive. You don't typically have terabyte drives on routers," Kerravala said. "You need to be careful [about ensuring that] the platform it's running on will support it because you don't want to cripple the functionality of both."
Vendors must next find a way to make WAN optimization software more than a tenant on a dumb host, he said. The host device should work in concert with WAN optimization software, meaning that a router should be able to adjust its functioning based on what's happening with the WAN optimization software that is running on it, Kerravala said.
"Ideally, you want to be able to integrate WAN op into your network strategy," he said. "You want to add more intelligence to the network and automatically change network configuration parameters [based on the current situation]."
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer.