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July 2007 | Volume 10 / Number 7
Integrator’s Corner

Who Needs Application Acceleration and Why?

The architecture of networks has evolved from a centralized model, where application resources reside in one location, to a distributed model, where users and IT resources are co-located at branch locations. The distributed model ensures acceptable performance, but the centralized model is more cost-effective. As a result, we’re seeing a trend back to centralization of application resources.

Although centralization offers many advantages, it can create performance issues when serving applications to a geographically dispersed user community. Most applications are designed for use in LAN environments, which are not prone to latency/bandwidth issues. But, increasingly, user communities are spread nationally or globally over WAN environments. For example, it is not unheard of these days to have a call center in India using a CRM application residing on a server in the US. The primary resulting pain point is slow application performance.

Enter application acceleration as a solution to address the performance issue. Application acceleration tools are designed to provide LAN-like performance over the WAN.

How Application Acceleration Works

Application acceleration uses a combination of technologies, including:

• Application acceleration (advanced protocol optimization) - Mitigates latency and bandwidth through advanced protocol optimization, including read-ahead, message prediction, and caching.

• Throughput optimization - Improves behavior of transport protocols to make them more efficient in WAN environments.

• Bandwidth optimization - Minimizes the transmission of redundant data patterns through data redundancy elimination (DRE) and compression.

As an enhancement, vendors are also tailoring acceleration to specific applications such as SAP, Oracle, and Siebel. With tailored solutions, acceleration benefits may still be realized for other non-named applications, but the benefits may not be as significant as the targeted application.

Optimization methods include caching of “same” information at the local site, so only changes to specific information are communicated back to the data center. The objective is to store all static information locally. The need to access the data center server for information is kept to a minimum, and, when the server is accessed, a copy of the information is stored locally in anticipation of additional needs.

Business Benefits of Application Acceleration

Application acceleration delivers many business benefits. For example, when a CRM application quickly delivers customer records across the WAN, the improved performance is experienced by end-users and is passed directly onto the customers being assisted by those end users.

Also, we’ve all experienced delays when calling companies. Speed may become the differentiator that customers use to decide from whom to make their next purchase. If your company’s customers are experiencing delays, your business may benefit from application acceleration.

Perhaps it’s your transactions that could use a boost. The ability to handle more transactions per day increases daily revenue without having to increase headcount, and provides a real gain in productivity as a result of increased performance.

Each organization must develop its own benchmarks and baseline criteria to measure the improvements gained from implementing application acceleration.

Select a Solution Based on Your Unique Business Needs

Application acceleration is not a “one size fits all” solution. IT organizations need to complete their due diligence before implementing this technology. Companies must prioritize applications based on business needs and select the appropriate acceleration method that best meets those needs. If you get application acceleration right, some industry claims suggest that your bandwidth consumption by any given application may be streamlined by as much as 70%.

With a prudent approach to implementing application acceleration, including taking the time to define the solution that fits, it’s likely that the benefits will keep adding up in more ways than you initially anticipate.

The Bottom Line

Organizations restructuring towards a centralized IT model should include application acceleration as a key component of that effort.

A final thought: Network technology and applications are constantly improving. If your performance benchmarks are a few years old, then the performance potential of your network and the applications running on it may be at levels that are a few years old as well. In other words, just because your network is performing as well as it always has doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s performing as well as it could — or should. IT

Ray Nahorniak, Director of Network Solutions for Forsythe Solutions Group, has more than 30 years of telecommunications experience. His broad experience, which includes operations management, operations control, project management, and managed services, has provided him with a thorough understanding of project lifecycle issues at every phase of execution.

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