June 09, 2010, 8:09 AM — by Matt Prigge and Paul Venezia, InfoWorld - Tracking and cracking network performance problems is no easy task. More than a matter of identifying often mystifying bottlenecks, ensuring network efficiency requires an almost preternatural understanding of your organization's IT operations, as well as a thick skin for withstanding the heat when problems inevitably arise.
[ See also: Create a more energy-efficient network infrastructure ]
To keep your network humming, we've outlined 10 areas where tweaking and moderate investment can lead to significant performance gains. After all, as more and more organizations seek to conduct business at wire speed, making sure your systems blaze is essential to the competitive edge your organization needs.
Performance tip No. 1: Speed up that WAN
IT has long been caught in the web of leased lines and costly WAN charges. Linking multiple sites with T1 lines, MPLS, and even Frame Relay used to be the only way to guarantee connectivity, but the scene has changed. Rather than curse at your monthly WAN bill, it's high time to investigate your alternatives.
Cogent Communications is one of several providers boasting a significant fiber footprint around the United States. Tapping these outlets might mean a substantial increase in site-to-site bandwidth at a significant cost savings -- it's all a matter of location. Even bringing a few sites into a new WAN design can save enough money to increase bandwidth to the sites that aren't accessible by the same carrier.
You may wind up running your own VPN between these sites, but if the carrier's SLA is strong enough and the network is as low-latency as it should be, this won't be an issue. Think of the benefits of 100Mbps across all your sites and a WAN bill downsized by half.
Sites outside the footprint of the larger carriers, and thus destined to remain on leased-line connections for the foreseeable future, could benefit from a WAN accelerator, such as Riverbed's Steelhead appliance (see the InfoWorld Test Center's hands-on review of Riverbed Steelhead). If you can't increase bandwith to those satellite sites, your only option is to decrease traffic on those circuits without reducing their efficacy. That's where WAN optimization tools come in.