Akamai Diversity

The Akamai Blog

The Performance Challenges of WAN Architecture

How many websites have you accessed today, and from how many devices? Were you satisfied with the speed of your service and the experience of connecting? Did it enable you to keep moving at the pace you need?
These are questions that enterprises should be asking about their internal networks everyday. As their employees become more and more accustomed to content delivery on demand, it becomes increasingly important for companies and their IT organizations to ensure that their application delivery solutions are keeping pace with the trends in modern web technology. By failing to consider the performance challenges of traditional Wide Area Network (WAN) based application delivery solutions, enterprises risk decreasing end-user productivity and satisfaction while increasing IT costs and complexity.

IT departments have been employing Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) and WAN optimization controllers (WOCs) for years to address WAN challenges including network latency* and bandwidth constraints**. However, adding new hardware and virtual appliances to a private WAN comes with its own issues:

  • WOC solutions are designed to accelerate traffic over private wide area networks, but must be installed in a "dual ended" manner in data centers and branch offices so that they are near the application and the end user. This optimizes the performance of delivery protocols and can mitigate application specific inefficiencies by addressing latency, packet loss, and data contention. While these characteristics mean that WOCs can effectively optimize application delivery in a private network environment, their "dual- ended" nature ultimately makes them unsuitable for distributed enterprises who increasingly rely on the Internet to reach global users, as it becomes prohibitively expensive and logistically complex to install a device at every end-user endpoint.
  • Another popular tool to optimize application delivery on WANs is the ADC, which is designed to load balance and manage the delivery of applications. ADC solutions are installed asymmetrically where the application lives, in the data center. When delivering applications over the Internet, this means that the end-user application delivery path is un-optimized, as there is no solution on the other end of the application, where the user is located. As a result, end-user performance and productivity is still negatively affected.
With these challenges in mind, smart companies and their IT departments are aware that the role of the private WAN is changing. While still an element of the enterprise network fabric, organizations that have previously leveraged WANs exclusively are relegating those aspects of application delivery to the segments in which it makes sense, such as VoIP and Email. They are simultaneously looking to extend their overall network fabric to include the public Internet, and build out anapplication delivery solution designed for Internet delivery, that can maintain the stability, reliability, and security that enterprises and their IT departments demand. By ensuring that their applications can be quickly and effectively accessed by employees, suppliers, contractors, and customers around the world enterprises can become more agile and focus on adapting to business challenges and opportunities.

To learn more about enterprise network challenges and what to look for in an application delivery solution for your company, download your copy of the new ebook A Modern Guide to Accelerating Web-Based Application Delivery.

* It takes time for network signals to go from the sender to the receiver and back again. WAN latency is directly proportional to the distance between sender and receiver and globalization means that these distances are always growing. This is exacerbated by chatty protocols which require acknowledgement before they can transmit again

** Companies can either ensure that their network is provisioned for peak load, in which case they eat the costs of supporting it outside of peak usage, or risk bandwidth constraints that lead to packet loss.