Understanding the relationship between WAN optimization and remote offices

Remote offices pose special problems for the data center. Each office requires its own local servers for key applications, which then need local backups. However, since so many remote offices lack skilled IT employees, maintenance and backups are left in the hands of untrained workers, leading to serious support problems.

Today, the Internet and dedicated wide area network (WAN) resources allow direct connections between the data center and remote offices. Remote offices can now access applications and data from the data center, and backup tasks can take place without the intervention of any remote employees. This overview highlights the essential ideas of WAN in the remote office.

Wide-area file services (WAFS) technology allows remote users to access files at local area network (LAN) speeds over a WAN. This alleviates the need for remote storage so corporations can consolidate servers and storage back to the data center. WAFS technology is almost always implemented as an appliance that is installed at each end of the WAN link. WAFS is regarded as a subset of WAN optimization, which typically embraces three areas: protocol acceleration, data compression and caching.

Protocol acceleration deals with the “chattiness” of applications. Protocol acceleration reduces the number of handshakes required as applications open or close files and boosts data movement by altering the size and characteristics of network packets.

Data compression reduces the sheer amount of data that must be transferred between points by replacing repeating data patterns with smaller “tokens.” That data is then reconstructed at the other end of the link.