Global ball bearings manufacturer SKF Group has deployed content delivery network technology on its MPLS network for Web application acceleration, a technology usually reserved for the Internet.
SKF has been using Akamai Technology’s Intelligent Internet Platform inside its firewall to speed up internal Web applications for nearly eight years, according to Richard Olivecrona, SKF’s director of new ventures.
Web application acceleration versus WAN optimization
Akamai’s content delivery network is generally used by content providers and enterprises to accelerate content on the public Internet. Most organizations today turn to WAN optimization vendors to accelerate traffic on private wide area networks (WANs).
However, the WAN optimization market was still in its infancy at the time that SKF was looking for a Web application acceleration solution. Riverbed Technology, the WAN optimization market leader, didn’t release the first versions of its Steelhead WAN optimization appliances until 2004, a year after SKF started working with Akamai.
Olivecrona said he needed a service that could accelerate HTTP and HTTPS traffic across his MPLS network.
“Very often internal Web applications are not so well-defined as applications running on the Internet, simply because they’ve been built to run over a LAN or maybe [within] a region with not too much latency,” he said. “Very often they don’t handle caching properly and they don’t compress content well. You could say they’re a bit dumb from an acceleration standpoint. This is where Akamai comes in with their HTTP proxy. It’s able to compress content, use pre-fetch functionality and use caching to deliver content properly out to a browser.”
Putting the Akamai Web application acceleration model behind a firewall
Akamai’s Intelligent Internet Platform is a distributed computing system, sometimes referred to as a content delivery network, consisting of thousands of points of presence (POP) servers spread across the globe. These servers monitor and analyze Internet traffic and use proprietary Akamai software to accelerate traffic associated with Akamai’s customers by navigating around congestion points and choosing the shortest, lowest-latency path to a destination.
Inside SKF’s MPLS network, Akamai applied a similar solution, Olivecrona said. SKF is hosting Akamai servers inside its data centers in Philadelphia; Singapore; Frankfurt, Germany; and Gothenburg, Sweden. These servers form an internal Web application acceleration system on SKF’s MPLS network.
“Much like they manage their service on the public Internet, [the Akamai] servers reside inside our firewalls and they run our internal applications, including our Intranet and our business intelligence applications,” he said. “We have combined a good any-to-any connectivity inside our organization with QoS, so that we can prioritize this traffic. And then we use the acceleration technology from Akamai so that we have good performance of Web applications inside the firewall.”
Olivecrona noted that Akamai’s custom Web application acceleration solution for SKF contrasts sharply with today’s mainstream WAN optimization solutions, particularly because Akamai’s technology is asymmetrical.
“If you deploy Riverbed, you need to deploy it both at branch offices and central locations,” he said. “We have a solution which is deployed in a couple of hub locations, and then it delivers content out to all our end users.”
Adding WAN optimization to compliment Akamai
While Akamai has excelled for years at accelerating HTTP and HTTPS applications on SKF’s MPLS network, Olivecrona said that non-Web applications require a different solution. Although he will continue to keep the Akamai investment in place, he will be adding WAN optimization to his network.
“We are deploying [Riverbed] in our organization to accelerate Lotus Notes and a number of non-Web applications, and we are seeing big improvement in terms of data volume reduction,” he said. “But that is only in a startup phase. We’re using Riverbed as a complement,” he said. “They’re not replacing one or the other.”
Clearly the market recognizes content delivery networks and WAN optimization as complementary technologies, too. Akamai and Riverbed announced a technology partnership last May. Akamai is installing Riverbed’s WAN acceleration software on its POP servers. The details of how this partnership will exactly work have not been announced, but both companies have said they are aiming at optimizing the performance of hybrid cloud environments. Olivecrona said he is not yet familiar with the specifics of the partnership.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Director.
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