RealTime IT News

Interop: App Delivery Choices Abound

NEW YORK -- Enterprise IT shops are facing a multi-year trend toward having more employees in remote offices while trying to consolidate their datacenters. The goal is to connect all those disparate users with their applications as fast as possible. Attendees at the Interop show here hope to learn how to meet that goal.

Some vendors recommend a WAN acceleration approach, and others recommend including more intelligence and capabilities in the router. A third group recommends using Application Front End (AFE) appliances.

Jim Metzler, vice president of consulting firm Ashton, Metzler & Associates who moderated multiple panels, said it's a balancing act where enterprises want more functionality and less equipment.

One solution that vendors have yet to hype is increasing the bandwidth. Jeff Prince, chairman and CTO of ConSentry Networks, said that the connectivity issue has already been solved.

"It's not an issue of bandwidth to the desktop anymore; U.S. corporations don't need 10 GbE," Prince said. "It's about starting to use the network for services. So while Gig E is cheap, there are better places to spend your dollars."

Forrester Research analyst Chris Silva said his firm sees a network utility model as being the one that makes the most sense. It's the idea of having the network reach out to endpoints and giving enough bandwidth to do role-specific tasks.

"Network spending is being driven on that model whether its voice, CRM or other apps," Silva said.

For Cisco the approach is to integrate services and functionality into its core Integrated Services Router (ISR) platform. The idea is that the ISR can live in a branch office and process intensive activities that can occur in the head office, which the branch is connected too.

Michael Wood, director of product management for the access routing technology group at Cisco, referred to his company's approach as the "empowered branch." The idea is about unifying voice, data and video, optimizing the WAN and having full security.

"WAN access is still an expensive push off bandwidth-intensive loads to the head office," Wood said. "Integration delivers operation efficiency."

One member of the audience pressed Wood, alleging that in Cisco's model if you lose your link to the head office, you lose service. Wood responded that he sees many businesses using platform mirroring from two different service providers in order to ensure availability.

"There are options, and as you save money from integration you can invest in infrastructure," Wood said.

For WAN acceleration vendor Blue Coat, the key to having application delivery availability is about acceleration. Chris King, director of strategic marketing at Blue Coat, noted that users are everywhere and applications are anywhere. The idea for Blue Coat is to stop the bad traffic and to accelerate the good.

"If you secure everything, business process can't flow," King said. "If you accelerate everything, you accelerate viruses, too."

Time and again in session after session, attendees asked vendors about how many boxes they should actually be using to handle application delivery and where those boxes should sit.

"How much belongs in the router? It's a tough question," Metzler said. "We can't have just one box, and then again we don't want to have 20 of them. What functionality will migrate over time and what functionally gets done where?"

At Interop New York 2007, the answer is still an open question.