Cloud WAN optimization makes Internet like MPLS for mobile users

WAN optimization appliances work well in branch scenarios, but not for users working at third-party locations. Cloud WAN optimization solved that problem for one WAN pro.

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Although MPLS improves the efficiency of data transfers over a wide area network (WAN), it cannot break the laws of physics: Latency can still be a killer. This is the mantra of most WAN optimization vendors, who typically solve the problem by planting WAN optimization appliances -- physical or virtual -- at each end of the connection.

That approach is straightforward enough for a traditional branch-headquarters deployment model, but optimizing WAN connectivity becomes more difficult when users routinely work from remote, third-party locations that have their own IT personnel and policies. WAN pros at Tavant Technologies, an IT solutions provider based in Santa Clara, Calif., faced this challenge before adopting a cloud WAN optimization service from Aryaka Networks to ensure their 700 users in India could get good network connectivity while working at client sites.

"Sometimes [users] connect from various client locations and need to download data, but using [an appliance-based] solution would make us have [to deploy] multiple boxes," said Anand Papaiah, senior manager of information systems for Tavant's operations in India. "All we have to do now [to optimize those sites] is call up Aryaka and give them the IP address of the client location, and they design the route -- it was the ease of configuration and things like that which impressed us."

Aryaka, a startup that launched its cloud WAN optimization service last year, characterizes its service as WAN optimization as a Service or a "Software as a Service (SaaS)-based WAN optimization and application acceleration." It uses standard Internet or private WAN connections for last-mile connectivity to its meshed network of 25 POPs, which host its proprietary WAN optimization software.  No on-premises hardware or software is required on either end of the optimized connection.

To optimize the connection for a new site, a network administrator calls an Aryaka technician to establish an IPsec virtual private network (VPN) to the nearest POP. The cloud WAN optimization provider plans to replace this manual process with a self-service deployment model, providing WAN pros with a sample firewall configuration that would automatically trigger Aryaka's network to establish a VPN, said Aryaka spokesman Jay Mejia.

Papaiah initially had concerns about the security and reliability of a cloud WAN optimization service, but Aryaka's results thus far have earned his confidence.    

"Aryaka is secure enough because they have encryption end-to-end. It [seems] more like a leased circuit, but over the Internet. It's as good as having any tunnel," Papaiah said. "We definitely feel this is a reliable solution."

Cloud WAN optimization makes Internet 'as a reliable as MPLS'

Prior to adopting Aryaka's cloud WAN optimization service, Papaiah fought a two-front networking war on the WAN: Poor performance by centralized applications and intolerably slow backups. Neither an international private leased circuit (IPLC) nor MPLS services did much to solve either issue, he said.

By using Aryaka ... we have a backup link for the existing MPLS [that] is as reliable as an MPLS.

Anand Papaiah
Senior Manager of Information Systems, Tavant Technologies

Users working at a client location in India would struggle to access basic business applications -- email, intranet portals, enterprise project management software -- because those applications were hosted in Tavant's U.S. data center for security and compliance purposes, Papaiah said.

"People used to complain that SharePoint and the EPM software used to never load," Papaiah said.

A small group of software developers working at client sites suffered even more when trying to access bandwidth-intensive applications, he said. Although those users weren't originally the key constituency for the cloud WAN optimization service, they also reaped the benefits, Papaiah said.

"[They] used to go on the Internet using a two-factor authentication VPN and connect from the client location, but there were some performance issues because they used to run [bandwidth] heavy applications like [Microsoft] Visual Studio," he said. "After putting this Aryaka solution in place, at least [another] 75 users are happy because there are no more performance delays."

Backups over the WAN took so long that Papaiah resorted to shipping DVDs with the data to his U.S. counterparts via FedEx.

"The kind of files we were [transferring] would be in the range of hundreds of GBs -- database files -- which was a challenge because it used to take at least five working days [to complete] the data transfer," he said.  

Since adopting Aryaka's cloud WAN optimization service, response times for business applications and backup windows have been cut in half, Papaiah said. Instead of paying $6,000 for an MPLS link at a new location, he plans to use Aryaka's service with standard Internet connections -- cutting costs by about a third, he said. With a more resilient WAN, Papaiah also plans to support a more robust disaster recovery (DR) strategy, he said. 

"My team used to have to work in the late nights to check the link and make sure… the data [backup] was happening," Papaiah said. "By using Aryaka ... we have a backup link for the existing MPLS [that] is as reliable as an MPLS."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, Senior News Writer.

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