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Randy George
Randy George
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Embracing Virtual WAN Acceleration

Almost every major WAN Acceleration vendor has jumped in on the virtual appliance bandwagon. The question is, are you ready to give up that shiny new appliance with your vendor's logo and replace it with just another boring server you have kicking around your data center? Let's face it, when you buy a Citrix NetScaler or a Bluecoat Proxy SG for WAN Optimization, you're really making an investment in a software solution.

Almost every major WAN Acceleration vendor has jumped in on the virtual appliance bandwagon. The question is, are you ready to give up that shiny new appliance with your vendor's logo and replace it with just another boring server you have kicking around your data center? Let's face it, when you buy a Citrix NetScaler or a Bluecoat Proxy SG for WAN Optimization, you're really making an investment in a software solution.  

The problem is, we've all been programmed into spending even more money on the proprietary hardware that vendors have been shoving down our throats for years. Rip off the hood of any fancy appliance, and you have the same name-brand server that you could have bought from any reseller at probably 25 percent of the hardware replacement cost, and for 50 percent less capital cost. I've been a victim of this myself. I've bought expensive "custom purpose" appliances only to ultimately have taken delivery of what ended up being just another DELL, HP or IBM server with some vendor's logo taped to the front of the chassis. So why do we continue latching onto proprietary appliances that are expensive, difficult to upgrade and difficult to support?  

I, for one, am going to take a leap of faith and jump on the virtual appliance bandwagon. I'm not a huge fan of server virtualization on a large scale, and I'm not a huge fan of virtual firewalls. However, I'm quite willing to deploy a virtual appliance for a specific infrastructure need such as WAN Op or Web Security. I'm going to light up the Network Computing labs with so much virtual WAN Op that Santa will think Christmas is coming. If anyone can break a virtual appliance, we can.  

One area of concern for me is scalability, but based on vendor claims, perhaps I shouldn't worry.  For example, the NetScaler VPN-1000 virtual appliance can reportedly pump through a 1Gbps of SSL encrypted throughput, even on modest server hardware. Given that virtual appliances can be deployed anywhere quickly, and on most hardware, it makes good sense from an agility perspective to consider going virtual for specific acceleration and security needs.  

The lab is spinning up, and we'll get back soon with some more blogs on our experience with various virtual WAN Op solutions in the NWC labs. By all means, if you have any good info, tips, or horror stories to share, please reply to the thread and share your experience with the community!

Randy George has covered a wide range of network infrastructure and information security topics in his 4 years as a regular InformationWeek and Network Computing contributor. He has 13 years of experience in enterprise IT, and has spent the last 8 years working as a ... View Full Bio
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