WAN optimization vendors are at the forefront of migrating hardware-based network appliances into the virtual environment. Virtual appliances can not only reduce hardware appliances in the data center, but they can also be deployed in places not accessible to physical appliances. Offering most of the features of their hardware-based counterparts, virtual WAN optimization appliances can be deployed in small remote offices and in large data centers with the same level of centralized management.
There are two primary use cases for deploying virtual WAN optimization appliances in a network, according to leading vendors. The first use case is the branch-in-a-box scenario. Engineers can deploy WAN optimization with multiple other network services, such as IP address management (IPAM), routing, and file and print services—all as virtual machines—on commodity server hardware.
The mobility of a virtual WAN optimization appliance offers a second deployment option to network engineers. When deployed as a virtual machine, virtual WAN optimization appliances are able to migrate with the applications they support. When an enterprise moves applications and services into the public cloud or hosted data centers, racking a physical WAN optimization appliance into someone else’s data center is not an option. Instead, enterprises can provision a virtual appliance alongside applications and services in the cloud. Enterprises can also apply this approach within their own virtualized data centers, fine tuning individual virtual appliances for each application.
Reviewing your virtual WAN optimization appliance options
Unlike other competitors, WAN optimization vendor Certeon offers only virtual appliances. Its aCelera product supports both Microsoft’s Hyper-V and VMware’s ESX and ESXi platforms. Enterprises can deploy aCelera Client software on a server or a branch-in-a-box deployment. It can also run on individual workstations to optimize traffic for teleworker applications. Certeon also offers aCelera Sync, a virtual WAN optimization appliance that supports replication between data centers for disaster recovery.
Cisco Systems offers Virtual Wide Area Application Services (vWAAS), a virtual edition of its WAAS hardware appliance. vWAAS supports VMware’s ESX and ESXi hypervisors, as well as integrates with Cisco’s Nexus 1000v virtual switch, to maintain an association with virtual machines as they move through the virtual environment. Cisco suggests that enterprises can bind a vWAAS instance to a specific application and move it with the application, whether the application moves within the data center, between data centers or even into off-premise cloud infrastructure.
Citrix Systems offers a version of its Branch Repeater product as a virtual appliance. Branch Repeater VPX supports WAN traffic from 2 to 45 Mbps in both XenServer and VMware vSphere environments. Like its hardware equivalent, the virtual Branch Repeater appliance offers specific optimizations for Citrix’s XenDesktop virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and the XenApp application server, along with TCP/IP and support for traditional application services like Microsoft Exchange.
Expand Networks' Virtual Accelerator supports up to 250 Mbps of optimized WAN traffic under a VMware environment and integrates into the hypervisor’s management and provisioning tools. Expand also touts its high-availability options. By using shared space on storage, multiple instances of Expand's virtual appliances can be configured to failover, while using the same caching space for deduplication. Expand also offers mobile clients, enabling remote workers to connect to the Virtual Accelerator in the data center to optimize traffic across the wide area network.
F5 Networks offers a WAN optimization module with its virtual application delivery controller, the BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager Virtual Edition. This BIG-IP virtual WAN Optimization Module can support up to 50 Mbps of WAN traffic. The virtual edition can be centrally managed alongside F5’s BIG-IP and VIPRION hardware appliances, and it includes full support for the company’s iRules scripting language to automate the processing of IP-based traffic.
Ipanema Technologies announced a Cloud Ready Networks vision involving an upgrade to its Autonomic Networking System (ANS) software so that it can identify specific SaaS traffic and differentiate it from other Web traffic. Along with this announcement, Ipanema is introducing its virtual ip|engine that will be available by the end of June 2011. The virtual appliance can be uploaded into an anything-as-a-service environment or into a private virtual data center.
The NetEx HyperIP is a software WAN optimization solution that can optimize big data across long distances. Until the end of 2011, NetEx is is offering HyperIP for a full year from the day you sign up. Although it can optimize small data over a WAN, it is ideal for data replication, file transfer applications and business continuance/disaster recovery (BC/DR) over WANs. NetEx claims the full version of HyperIP can transfer files at up to 800 Mbps. This free WAN optimization software is compatible with many virtual data replication vendors including EMC, NetApp, VMware, Veeam, HP LeftHand Networks, EqualLogic, and Symantec.
Riverbed Technology offers multiple versions of its virtual WAN optimization appliance Virtual Steelhead. Each version is classed by its throughput capabilities, ranging from 1 to 45 Mbps. Riverbed offers customers the opportunity to scale with demand on the fly by simply purchasing a new license key.
Silver Peak Systems offers multiple tiers of WAN optimization with its virtual appliances. The company’s VX appliances range in throughput from 4 to 50 Mbps, enabling enterprises to scale to the needs of the specific remote office. Silver Peak has also designed a virtual WAN optimization appliance, the VRX, for optimizing data center interconnect. It can scale up to 1 Gbps of optimized traffic throughput between disparate virtual environments.