The rise of workplace collaboration services such as Microsoft’s SharePoint Server leads to increased demand on a company’s WAN infrastructure. Slow file downloads and uploads, waiting on pages to load and the resulting decrease in available bandwidth for other network services can increase pressure on IT departments to find a cost effective solution.
For this scenario we tested Microsoft’s SharePoint server product, which is commonly used as a team working and corporate intranet solution across a WAN link.
As part of our simulation we built a simple test network comprising of a client PC, a SharePoint server, WAN emulator and two Sangfor S5000's, detailed in the diagram below.
To simulate standard SharePoint activity, we accessed dummy Word and Excel documents which had been uploaded to the server and would make changes to the contents before saving them back. As we exchanged data between the client and the server, the WAN Optimisation units would compress data on its first pass while building up a block-by-block cache of the web pages and documents. This cache was responsible for reducing WAN traffic by up to 99%, as viewable from the screen capture below.
In conjunction with the data reduction, our HTTP proxy will optimise the communications on a protocol level to reduce needless round trips and to streamline the requests to the server, reducing the time it takes between clicking on a link and the page rendering in your browser of choice. The dramatic effect this has on file opening times and on wasted productivity waiting for pages to open can be achieved without replacing your current WAN infrastructure, allowing you to increase its throughput and improve ROI.
The performance improvement for your remote SharePoint users will be noticeable from the moment you install our optimisers, boosting staff productivity and reducing service complaints. This improvement is not limited to office based staff either, using our PACC client you will be able to improve remote worker staff and raise productivity levels to match their office based contemporaries.
Your WAN capacity is running close to its limit, users are complaining about slow loading speeds of business critical applications and backups are falling outside of their windows... this scenario is played out in companies across the world, so how do you solve the problem?
Reducing the raw data travelling across your WAN by either blocking access to certain bandwidth heavy websites or deploying a WAN Optimiser can take the pressure off for a while, but you will still be at risk of suffering slowdowns and high latency due to the steady increase of your base traffic levels or from bandwidth hungry applications flooding all the available capacity. It’s obvious another technology is needed to guide and shape the bandwidth in addition to optimisation and acceleration, making sure specific applications and protocols either have access to a minimum level of bandwidth or are limited to a maximum level and can’t take all of the bandwidth for themselves.
I am, of course, talking about Quality of Service (QoS).
On its own, QoS helps to partition up your WAN link into many “virtual lines” and will throttle or burst traffic depending on your needs and the configuration set on the device. The drawback here is when you don’t have any WAN Optimisation you can quickly outgrow your connection because you’re trying to squeeze traffic down an even smaller section of your pipe.
Taking advantage of QoS usually means replacing network infrastructure with expensive switches, choosing your firewall because it supports that feature or even buying a device which is dedicated to the task. WAN Optimisers from Sangfor includes QoS as one of its core features for bandwidth management and together with traffic optimisation/acceleration make a complimentary pairing to get the best performance out of your current WAN infrastructure at a fraction of the first year upgrade cost.
This works because our units can identify traffic based on its TCP port and by using Layer 7 Application Identification, apply optimisation to the traffic to reduce the flow of data and then pass this reduced traffic onto the QoS module in order to shape it in accordance to your specific policies. Since we can identify traffic at the packet level, you don’t need to set up any additional rules should it be running across a non-standard ports – such as VMWare server using HTTP across port 8333 for its administration interface – reducing the maintenance required on your policies whenever you implement a new system/service.
Through this unified approach, not only can you dramatically improve the performance of your WAN communications but you can keep a constant eye on your changing usage patterns and respond based on solid data provided by our reporting module. This way you won’t ever let a single application bring your WAN to a crawl or waste a single byte of your precious bandwidth.
With the workplace adapting to modern lifestyles and increasing its flexibility in allowing staff to conduct their duties from outside of the traditional office space, the need to support access to company resources from a wide range of external networks - complete with unpredictable rates of contention, available bandwidth and high latencies - brings with it many frustrations, hampered productivity and even render some tasks impossible to do outside of the office.
So how do you speed up these roaming users and deliver services to them with the same sort of reliability as being on the local network in the office? It isn’t feasible to carry around a full WAN Acceleration unit or to install one into the homes of staff members, so how about a software solution instead?
By using a portable acceleration client (PACC) you can improve your service experience and increase productivity levels of individual remote workers, regardless of whether they are using their own home internet connection, a public wifi network or a company issued 3G dongle.
As the user connects to the office with their PACC client, data flowing between the two can benefit from the same acceleration policies used when optimising traffic between offices leading to the improved responsiveness of Remote Desktop sessions, better file access times and reduced “dead time” spent waiting for things to happen instead of getting the job done.
In addition to compression and protocol optimisation, our PACC client uses local caching to dramatically reduce the data being exchanged between the user and the office for services such as network file sharing (CIFS/SMB) and corporate intranet access, stopping them from being downloaded time and time again. Not only will this speed up opening files for the user but it will conserve bandwidth use, saving money by reducing often costly data and roaming charges when using 3G connections or the rising trend for home ISP’s to charge for data consumption too.
Boosting productivity and reducing costs aren’t the only benefits on offer; an often overlooked aspect of mobile acceleration is the way it can be used to speed up getting a new office running or to allow a temporary work space to get going in time limited scenarios such as covering events or responding to disasters. Waiting for fixed internet connections to go live or
for IT to deploy network infrastructure into a building before the location can be used to conduct business is finally a distant memory – allowing a new office to cover the start up costs in a much shorter time scale than ever before.
Essentially, a mobile acceleration client opens up the power of your office based WAN Acceleration and Optimisation units to modern business practices, augments private cloud deployments and extends cost savings, business agility and productivity gains beyond the doors of your established offices.
All you need is a laptop, mobile phone, a 3G dongle and your PACC software to call anywhere “your office”.
When thinking about WAN Optimisation, it is easy to concentrate on raw bandwidth figures or noticing the time difference between backup jobs from pre-optimised and post-optimised days - Epochs? Eras? - and miss another vital aspect of improving the efficiency and performance of your networks – understanding who is doing what and with what across your WAN by making good use of the reporting features present in the WAN Acceleration and Optimisation units from Sangfor.
By knowing which machines and what services are generating the most traffic and at what time of day, you can diagnose the root cause behind incidents and adjust the settings of your Sangfor unit to better suit your needs and provide a solution, especially when adhering to ITIL best practices.
For example, you have installed a new WAN Acceleration and Optimisation unit into your head office and a branch office but Remote Desktop users still report periods of noticeable slowdown. As part of your investigation, you can run a report covering the time scales of the slowdown to see which IP on your network was generating the most traffic and the services that traffic was composed of.
Through that report, you may discover a server running a DR backup/replication or a particular user making heavy use of media streaming websites resulting in less bandwidth for Remote Desktop users. Armed with this knowledge you can immediately address the issue by either making changes to the schedule on the problematic server, limit the user from accessing those websites or by modifying the Bandwidth Management settings to ensure essential traffic such as RDP is guaranteed a minimum slice of the bandwidth pie, reducing the impact other services have on a business’s core applications.
Where you could have spent days collecting and reading TCPDump logs or spending money on extra network monitoring equipment and contractors, you can generate a report in minutes, pinpoint the cause and develop a solution within a very short period of time. By setting these reports up to generate automatically and be delivered straight to your inbox on a daily, weekly and even monthly basis you can often notice a problem before it becomes a disruptive one.
In addition to being a useful tool in diagnosing issues in the present and formulating a solution, this body of data can assist long term projects in making the case for or against any major changes to the provision of IT services across the company. Traffic Flow Speed and Total Flow reports will show just how much data is passing across your WAN and how close you are to the maximum throughput your WAN connection is capable of.
This allows you to answer important questions such as “Can our infrastructure handle the migration of our CRM application to a new cloud based solution?” or “Is the bottleneck our WAN link or the server performance?” which often leads to “How do we fix this?” and, more importantly “How much will it cost?”.
Taking advantage of the built-in reporting functionality in Sangfor’s WAN Accelerators gives you an in-depth knowledge of the data flowing in and out of your network, which is crucial in providing an efficient WAN, ensuring your business gets value for money on their infrastructure and informs future decisions based on solid usage data.
"The level of features provided is extensive and combining Sangfor's innovatve optimisation technologoes with its acceleration policies also makes the appliances highly versatile. There appears to be very little traffic it can't handle as Sangfor includes proxies for all popular applications and is also capable of accelerating site-to-site backups, IP SAN traffic and replication operations using products such as Double-Take."
We were especially pleased to hear this compliment:
"During testing we were impressed with the ease of installation and deployment of the M550 appliances. Sangfor's well designed management interface, wizard based assistance and comprehensive set of default parameters provided on the appliances allows WAN optimisation to begin almost immediately."
So don't just take our word for it, read the full review here.