Is WAN Optimization Dead? | Network World


As an ever present staple of technology in the inventory of any major enterprise, WAN optimizers have begun to lose their luster. While there are still probably thousands in widespread use throughout the world, evolution has conspired to put them on the endangered species list. Do you remember thicknet, thinnet, or token ring? Yup! That kind of endangered!

Not even 5 years ago, many companies relied on bandwidth from T1, ISDN, or Frame Relay lines to connect to the internet. I still remember trying to get an ISDN line (128k) installed at my house so that I could get high speed internet! A T1 was too costly in those days.

Fast forward to today and we see circuits in the 100M to 10G range at most businesses. Metro Ethernet, DOCSIS, and even DSL provide bandwidth at commodity prices in most urban areas. While there is still a significant footprint of traditional TDM technologies that serve the rural markets, even the $25 per month 3 Mbps DSL availability puts broadband within reach of 95% of businesses.

WAN optimization was in full swing during this limited bandwidth era. It wasn’t economically feasible for a company to install multiple T1s to get the aggregate throughput needed to deliver services. WAN optimizers came to the rescue by using a combination of protocol optimization and data caching, allowing the first computer to download a file, caching the object and chunks of its data, which allowed a subsequent download by other users to be much faster. However, their greatest weaknesses were the UDP protocol and SSL/TLS-encrypted traffic. Applications such as video streaming, or VoIP received no benefit from most optimization solutions. And while these systems can generally accelerate encrypted applications, dealing with key and certificate acquisition and loading created a series of administrative headaches that were so difficult to overcome that most choose to not use this capability.

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