July 24, 2009
I've been considering WAN accelerators ever since the sysadmin next door suggested one a month or two ago. I've known about them for a few years, but I didn't realize their full capacity for improving your users' experience until I heard it from him.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of WAN acceleration, here's an example of how it could help. Suppose you've got a central office and you've got a branch office. Maybe you've got a leased line from your branch office to the main office, or maybe they're just connected over a VPN. Whichever, they send traffic back and forth between them. Because you're sending uncompressed data, by default, you waste a lot of bandwidth. A 100k Excel spreadsheet could easily zip to 10k with even a low-efficiency compression scheme like gzip. WAN accelerators let you do that, except over your network links. Because you can't just send compressed data and hope something on the other end understands it, you've got to have one at each end of the wire, although you can have one terminate multiple remote endpoints, I believe. This would be useful if you had two branch offices, each connected to one main office.
Anyway, I've done a little bit of a market survey to see what's out there, and the leader appears to be Riverbed, which is what my neighbor is using. In addition, there are many others out there, all of which seem to have similar features.
If you want to hear more about the various options, I found this very recent view of what's out there (except from an investment standpoint, but it should give you some idea): http://seekingalpha.com/article/149152-optimizing-the-wan-optimization-space
Are any of you using them? What do you have, and how well does it work?