Enabling mobile application delivery with WAN optimization controllers

Enterprise IT should expect application optimization soon to include smartphones. To optimize mobile application delivery, WAN optimization controllers or Internet overlay services can be used. Learn how in this section of our application delivery guide.

With the increase of mobile workers who use smartphones for business, IT should expect application optimization and virtualization to include mobile devices over the next few years. To optimize enterprise wide area network (WAN) optimization controllers or Internet overlay services can be used to overcome the impact of packet loss over communications. To learn how, read this section of the application delivery guide.

Using WAN optimization controllers to optimize mobile application delivery

A recent analyst report predicted that there would be a billion mobile workers worldwide by 2011. In order to enable mobile workers to access enterprise applications as easily as workers in branch offices, the communications between the mobile worker and the data center (whether owned by the enterprise or a third-party provider such as a cloud computing service provider) has to be optimized.

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One way to optimize this communications is to deploy client software on the user's mobile device. Until recently, the typical device that mobile workers used to access enterprise applications was a laptop. While that is still the most common scenario, today many mobile workers use their smartphones to access enterprise applications. Because of this expanded use of smartphones, it is reasonable to expect that both application virtualization and application optimization will be expanded to include smartphones over the next few years. For example, to enable mobile application delivery, some IT organizations will support the use of smartphones as an access device by implementing server-side application virtualization for those devices. In this way, the smartphone can access corporate applications by running protocols such as ICA, RDP and PCoIP over the wide area network (WAN). Just as was the case with workers who access applications from a fixed location, in order for this to work well, network and application optimization is required.

In many cases, the mobile worker will use some form of wireless access. Since wireless access tends to exhibit more packet loss than wired access, the WAN optimization controllers (WOCs) that get deployed to support mobile workers need functionality (like forward error correction) that can overcome the impact of packet loss. In addition, as workers move in and out of a branch office, a seamless handoff between the mobile client and the branch office WOC will be necessary.

Many IT organizations resist putting much software on the user's device. Many users also resent having multiple clients (such as WAN optimization controller, SSL VPN, IPSec VPN, wireless/cellular access) that are not integrated on their access device. Going forward, IT organizations should look to implement WOCs that are integrated with the other clients used by mobile workers.

Using Internet overlay services to optimize mobile application delivery

If the mobile worker is using the Internet to access enterprise applications, an alternative to deploying WOC clients on every mobile user's access device is to use an Internet overlay service from a company such as Akamai. Recent market research indicates that relative to accessing public cloud computing solutions, IT organizations are only slightly more interested in using a traditional WAN service such as MPLS combined with WOC functionality than they are in using an Internet overlay service.

Internet overlay services typically provide functionalities such as these:

  • Route optimization
  • TCP optimization
  • HTTP optimization
  • Content offload
  • Security

Continue reading this guide to learn how WAN optimization controllers are used in Application Delivery 2.0:

Jim Metzler
Jim Metzler

About the author:
Dr. Jim Metzler, principal at Ashton Metzler and Associates, is a widely recognized authority on network technology and its business applications. In more than 28 years of experience, Jim has helped numerous vendors refine product and service strategies and has helped enterprises evolve network infrastructures. He has directed and conducted market research at a major industry analyst firm and run a consulting firm. Jim holds a Ph.D. in numerical analysis from Boston University. He is co-author of the book Layer 3 Switching: A Guide for IT Professionals (Prentice Hall).

This was first published in June 2010

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