Consolidation: it’s the applications that really matter

Businesses are looking to centralise applications in the cloud in order to cut costs, however this requires those very applications to run over a WAN, which in turn can result in application performance issues.

More bandwidth isn’t the answer to user satisfaction

Bandwidth can be an expensive IT cost. Removing server, hardware and maintenance costs through consolidation loses much of its impact if you then need to double network bandwidth capability to support the distributed infrastructure.

As I have found working with lots of organisations bandwidth can be consumed disproportionately by non-critical applications. At one oil company a single user was consuming over 90% of the bandwidth at a site through the use of recreational video applications.

A WAN must have controls built in that can allocate resources based on the criticality of the application in question. For example, you must be able to specify objectives such as ‘any end user session, anywhere, anytime, must have at least 50kbps if using SAP’. The Ipanema system works at this granular level and that’s how we can help organisations to specify SLAs for each application at the individual user level.

Consolidation and the WAN

Consolidation of servers and applications means more data traffic flowing across the WAN. As a result application performance suffers due to delay, jitter, and packet losses. According to a study commissioned in the UK, the cost of poor application performance can amount to additional costs upwards of £500,000 per year, due to reduced productivity, unfilled orders, and decreased customer satisfaction.

The research also showed that network bottlenecks resulting from centralisation can generally be eliminated by increasing bandwidth. Although 57% of respondents confirmed this, 75% feel that increasing bandwidth alone does not solve the application usage problems that occur from increased centralisation of IT resources. Significantly, 93% said that they wish for improved network visibility and control of the data traffic flowing over the WAN.

Access to centrally stored remote information, groupware systems such as Outlook, Sharepoint or Lotus Notes, and important proprietary applications like SAP are all vulnerable to performance issues post-consolidation. WAN Governance allows applications to operate according to their level of business criticality and can guarantee the performance of critical applications at the individual user level.

Governing WAN Infrastructure – it’s more than acceleration

Current enterprise services run smoothly in the local environment, but were not designed for operation over a WAN. Using the WAN to access applications significantly increases bandwidth requirements between sites.

To solve this problem a variety of WAN optimisation tactics can be deployed including; compressing data and local caching at various locations, accelerating the transfer protocols used on the network, changing the network topology of information flows.

However this tactical acceleration approach alone isn’t enough. Imagine a Ferrari travelling round the M25 at top speed – it looks impressive. But now try it in rush hour and the Ferrari can’t work to even a fraction of its potential. The same is true of an acceleration system deployed on a congested corporate WAN. Acceleration is part of the battle but it must be viewed within the wider context, which is where WAN Governance comes in.

The following aspects are key to a successful consolidation project:

  • Discovering the applications on the network and understanding their performance
  • Provisioning network access according to business-critical application requirements including accurate application prioritisation
  • Guaranteeing “application-centric” Service Level Agreements (SLAs) regardless of the network types involved
  • Measuring application performance with quality metrics to improve operational visibility and to enable the WAN to be governed based on granular application performance information
  • Automatic provisioning of new applications, network sites and additional end users

The WAN governed as a whole thus becomes a solid asset on which the business can rely at all times. When conducting consolidation projects I urge the industry to consider the delivery of applications up front. After all users won’t appreciate the IT efficiency savings you’ve achieved but they’ll sure notice if their applications grind to a halt.

Nigel Pink is VP and General Manager UK, Ipanema Technologies. Nigel has held Sales and Management Consulting positions in organisations including Cisco Systems, SAP, Interel Public Affairs & Public Relations, Network Equipment Technologies (N.E.T.), and Electronic Data Systems (EDS). Additionally in his early career he worked for the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Earlier in his IT career he had roles at Network Equipment Technologies where he started high growth partnerships with Ericsson and IBM.