In-path deployments require placing the WAN device between the switch and the router. The appliance is inserted in-line between the WAN router and the Ethernet switch on the LAN side of the network. Out-of-path deployments require reconfiguring routers, and appliances are deployed in each office of a distributed enterprise network, typically behind the WAN router. Fenady chose to deploy his Riverbed appliance in-path, he says, "since the Riverbed has a failover pass-through. If the unit dies, there's no network interruption; we tested this extensively."

The leading WAN optimization vendors support both classes of deployment, and customers choose their deployment based on infrastructure, preferences, traffic flow, and the number of users and branch offices. When Cisco first introduced its WAN optimizer product, it was offered in only out-of-path deployments. Mark Weiner, Cisco's director of market management for data center solutions, says the company's Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) software (that's loaded onto an appliance) is now offered in-path as well in response to customer demand.

Jeremy Gill is CIO at Pittsburgh-based Michael Baker Corp., a survey and engineering firm with 4,200 employees and a network that supports 50 domestic and eight international offices. The company, whose work includes flood-plain mapping for federal agencies like FEMA, ran into a problem

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after it deployed the ProjectWise content management app. At the same time, Gill was concentrating on consolidating 15TB of corporate data to a main site. "As that data center grew and we consolidated file servers, we realized we were going to have to increase our WAN acceleration," he says. Gill had a "ton of Cisco ISR router lines," so choosing Cisco's WAN optimization product and deploying it out-of-path made sense to him.

Gill is an IT veteran who was never crazy about the WAFS products of yesteryear. "To be honest," he says, "I'm not a fan of file acceleration. If there's a piece of hardware that will do it, I'd rather do it at the hardware level." In the end, Gill wound up with the kind of WAN optimization ROI he was looking for: $4,000 in monthly bandwidth savings, increased remote-worker billable hours and centralized storage.

Early on, Gill was unhappy with Cisco's reporting tool, but he says the company has made strides in recent releases. "There are more out-of-the-box reports now compared to us having to pull the data and run our own manipulation of it," he says. "That was taking 20 hours a month." But the numbers, he notes, are impressive. A six-month snapshot showed ProjectWise accelerated by 60%. Gill is also looking forward to the improved video streaming in Cisco's most recent release, he says. In the older version, all 20 users in a remote office would receive their own video stream, sent across the WAN from the media server in the company's main data center. A newer version of WAAS pulls only one stream from the media server, which is then sent to the 20 users from the WAAS device in a remote office. In the case of small WAN links, such as T1, which a lot of Gill's remote offices use, "it can't support a stream of 20 users at 384K, but it can easily support one," explains Gill. "That will help us significantly. We have folks in remote offices, logging into Web-based meetings, that kind of break the bandwidth when it comes to video."

Jeff Post is network manager at EDC Inc., an international nonprofit that does work in 35 countries, and has programs ranging from health care to education and grassroots economic initiatives. For Post, that means heavy WAN use, especially between the nonprofit's three regional offices in Newton, MA; Washington, D.C.; and New York City.

Post became a Silver Peak Systems Inc. customer in February when EDC began a data center consolidation project. "Our need [for a WAN product] came when we outgrew our space, power and HVAC supply," says Post.

This was first published in September 2008

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