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Virtualising the wide area network

According to Citrix’s Cloudbridge Networking Group Senior Director of Product Marketing, Karl Brown, there are two approaches towards deploying mobile workspaces to branch offices. A WAN comprises of communication links that allows workers to access enterprise applications sitting at a centralised data centre.

Brown explained, “The first approach is wide area network (WAN) optimisation, which optimises bandwidth by doing things like compressing data and accelerating protocols.”

Apparently, this approach goes well for enterprises with expensive multiprotocol label switching or MPLS technology; WAN optimisation ‘squeezes’ MPLS connections so that it gives the best throughput possible.

The second approach, virtual WAN is relatively new for Citrix and Brown described it as the ‘most exciting solution out there in the market today.’

Virtual WAN
Simply put, virtual WAN consists of physical or virtual appliances at WAN nodes (branch or centralised), and a management software.

From Citrix’s point of view, the virtual WAN is great for adding bandwidth via DSL services, the Internet, or reliable 4G connectivity.

“Virtual WAN bonds these different connections together, so the end user and the data centre, it looks like one big logical connection is between them,” said Brown.

It is now actually possible to scale bandwidth with virtual WAN, but the challenge remains that the public Internet is not reliable or SLA-ready. For enterprises, the public Internet spells higher latency and packet loss, which is bad for business.

Citrix is recommending a dual-approach however, which explains the Gartner term for virtual WAN being ‘hybrid WAN’ instead. Brown said, “With virtual WAN, we want to promote using (a hybrid of) both services, and augment MPLS with the Internet.

A virtual solution, also almost always means a solution that is software-defined by nature, which gives it features of programmability, greater agility and greater orchestration, all on-demand.

Brown said, “Our appliances are intelligent enough to detect mission-critical apps and decide which path to use. And if one of the links fails, the app moves to the next best link.”

Virtual WAN in ASEAN
According to Brown, in lesser developed countries, MPLS is quite unreliable. “Across ASEAN today, there are a lot of issues with MPLS – it is expensive, it can be unreliable and a lot of companies in this region, have many branch offices.”

Citrix’s virtual WAN solution launched in Malaysia in late May, and Citrix’s networking Sales Leader in ASEAN, Lee Jae Won observed “Getting comfortable with the idea of using Internet access, is a hurdle for some businesses. It represents an opportunity for cost reduction, but it is still a change in how they do things.”

Brown concluded that typically there is up to 80-percent reduction in cost when using a virtual WAN compared to an MPLS connection.


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