Simplify Distributed Networks with Remote Office Optimization

To gain control of data and systems, IT consolidated their environment. A better solution is emerging: optimization tools.

IT managers in distributed organizations must ensure that remote users enjoy high quality user experiences (to maintain high productivity) yet must consolidate network resources to achieve cost savings, increase control over data and resources, and enhance security. Seem impossible? Fortunately, new technologies bridge this gap, centralize organizational data, and reduce the organization's IT footprint, all while improving remote worker productivity.

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IT managers in distributed organizations are charged with two seemingly incompatible tasks. First, they must ensure that remote users enjoy high quality user experiences in order to maintain productivity. Second, they must consolidate network resources to achieve cost savings while increasing control over existing data and resources, and enhancing security. As if on demand, technologies are being delivered today that bridge this gap, centralize organizational data, and reduce the organization's IT footprint. These solutions also improve remote worker productivity.

Why Consolidate?

To take advantage of global and national markets, large organizations set up remote branch offices (RBOs). With the proliferation of these RBOs came islands of IT infrastructure and data. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was common for each RBO to have a completely unique infrastructure, with no standardization of servers, storage, security, or backup. And managing these distributed environments began to take their toll on an organization's budget.

At the same time, organizations faced the economic downturn of the early 2000s and an increased awareness of security threats and compliance requirements. HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley demanded that organizations strictly protect and control data. Secure networks and servers became the mandate.

To gain control over both systems and data, IT managers chose to consolidate, returning servers to corporate data centers. This allowed IT to standardize on vendors and products, introduce efficiencies (for tasks such as updating and patch management) and simplify the implementation and management of the IT infrastructure.

The Challenges

In theory, consolidating resources introduces efficiencies and control for IT management, but the practice has been neither as simple nor as rewarding as anticipated. The reasons vary, but are the result of two overarching challenges. First, consolidation hasn't resulted in the expected savings. "Consolidating servers" merely involved moving them from the branch to the data center. They were neither eliminated nor phased out. In fact, existing solutions often required adding servers to the organization—as these solutions also required that the applications, as well as the data, be served from the central location.

Consolidation also increased costs, both directly and indirectly, across the organization. The bandwidth consumed by existing solutions resulted in an increase in the bandwidth costs across the organization—a direct expense. Moreover, existing desktop resources (such as word processing and spreadsheets) became redundant as applications needed to be pushed over the WAN—an indirect expense. While consolidation provided greater control over applications and data, it often did so with increased costs.

The second challenge faced by existing methods of consolidation concerned a decrease in user satisfaction for remote users. Even though organizations were adding bandwidth to accommodate the demands of the remote users, there was nothing they could do about latency. Subsequently, users often had to contend with downtime and degraded service, an inconvenience and impact to their productivity. As a result, users would often disregard the standard operating procedures that dictated working with centralized data, preferring to work locally instead. This defeated attempts to centralize and control critical data. As a result of this lack of significant savings combined with dissatisfied remote users, distributed organizations were faced with seeking yet another alternative.

The Solution: Global File Systems and Branch Office Optimization

Wanting to consolidate their infrastructures without either increasing costs or alienating remote users, today's IT managers searched for this new type of solution. Their criteria:

  • Identify, then deploy, best-of-breed optimization products

  • Achieve consolidation (including cost savings, enhanced control over data, and increased data integrity)

  • Enhance the user experience

Unlike consolidation, optimization products can truly reduce resources. Not only are file, print servers, DNS and DHCP servers (and others) removed from the branch office, they are eliminated from the organization altogether. These servers are not merely repositioned to the data center. Any critical data that had been previously located on these servers is relocated to the data center, and all other functionality (DNS, print, DHCP) is then performed by the RBO optimizer. Once critical data is removed from the branch, other resources (such as storage and backup devices) can also be removed from the RBO. Maintenance (patches, shipment of tapes, and updating) is minimized.

In addition to removing servers from the RBO, optimizers dramatically reduce latency by optimizing traffic at three layers—the network, application, and file system layer. By intelligently optimizing network traffic, lowering file system overhead and adapting to application usage patterns, RBO optimizers deliver LAN-like performance to users accessing files over the WAN. The best RBO optimizers become part of the IT infrastructure, operating in real time, maximizing data integrity, and enhancing the user experience.

By deploying RBO optimizers, senior managers throughout distributed organizations can reduce the IT footprint, eliminate unnecessary inefficiencies, take control over critical data, and provide remote users with the user experience—and collaborative environment—they demand. The result: happy users who can now comply with best practices policies implemented by their IT management. That makes remote office optimization a win/win solution for everyone.

About the Author

Doron Abrahami is Director of Communications and Channel Development at DiskSites.