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As storage and networks become more intertwined and interdependent, storage administrators will increasingly be called upon to decide where best to place certain types of files, especially streaming media and e-learning training programs. The closer these files are placed near users, the better the performance, which makes for a happier user. For large corporations with dispersed work forces, caching dynamic content at the network's edge, as part of a broader enterprise content delivery network (eCDN), is becoming a popular storage option for not only performance, but economical reasons as well.

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Is an eCDN the right storage solution?
Understand exactly what an application does and its system requirements. An application may appear to be Web-based, but still has back-end communications with systems network architecture (SNAs), says Dot Powers, advisory analyst, Siemens Medical Solutions.
Keep in mind that eCDNs generally can operate independent of a company's storage environment and bring savings to a company's main storage infrastructure. It doesn't matter whether that environment is SAN or NAS, says Amit Pandey, senior director NetCache, Network Appliance. NetApp is among the vendors developing one product to handle both.
Be sure that data to be cached works in an eCDN/edge-caching environment. Logitech Inc. ran into difficulty when it tried to cache too user-specific data, and instead ended up caching mostly template-type documents, says Pierre-Olivier Monnier, Logitech CTO..
When justifying an investment, look at the cost of the efficiencies per user that it can create, not the overall outlay. At Logitech, the eCDN's $200,000 cost translates into just $150 to $200 per employee.
Caches, which are pools of data on the network, should be protected with the same degree of security as "parent" data, says Pete Lindstrom, director security strategies, Hurwitz Group.

"It's caching on steroids," says Stephen J. Elliot, research director, storage and enterprise management, Hurwitz Group, Cambridge, MA.

Fueling the move to eCDNs are bandwidth limitations and latency issues that enterprises face as they move to Web-enabled applications such as streaming media, e-learning and global corporate communications. "Until recently, anyone that played around with streaming media probably got slapped on the nose with a rolled up newspaper from the IT department because there just wasn't a good way to handle big files integrated into Web pages," says Julie O'Brien, product manager of content networking, Cisco.

Today, storage and network administrators need to work together to answer the question: "What should be stored at the edge of the corporate network?" says Lucinda Borovick, program director Data Center Networks, International Data Corp., Framingham, MA.

eCDNs strategically cache Web-based content on the enterprise network edge, so that every content request doesn't have to traverse the WAN. With most-requested or prepositioned content available on the LAN instead, that increases bandwidth efficiencies, delivers requested content faster, enables streaming content transfer and saves on related costs.

Results can be dramatic. Logitech International, Fremont, CA, needed to boost operational efficiencies with enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications at its foreign subsidiaries. An eCDN with edge caching fit the bill, and slashed transaction processing times by up to 50%, according to Pierre-Olivier Monnier, CTO.

For example, at the company's factory in Suzhou City, China, 500 to 800 workers log onto the network every morning during the same 15-minute span. The process used to take up to 70 minutes, depending on bandwidth availability. Now with an eCDN from Network Appliance that includes NetCache appliances caching on the LAN, it now takes just two minutes, Monnier adds. And it took Logitech just six months to recoup the $200,000 it took to install the system in 15 global facilities.

This was first published in March 2003

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