February 11, 2013, 7:30 AM — Last week, I explained the growing importance of understanding TCP basics -- specifically, TCP windowing. As companies deal with ever larger amounts of data that need to move across the WAN, whether between premises or between a premise and the cloud, it becomes increasingly important to optimize the basics to achieve the best performance. To ease this process, a variety of networking vendors sell so-called WAN accelerators. However, they're no panacea, suitable to only certain environments.
The truth is that these vendors and their customers are often plagued by a general lack of understanding about what the devices can and can't do. You might even assume WAN accelerators to be the snake oil of the Internet age -- surely you can't get more than 10Mbps of throughput on a 10Mbps circuit, right? On the other hand, you often hear the notion that WAN accelerators are techno-magic devices that can make anything faster. As is usually the case, neither extreme turns out to be true.
WAN accelerators are great in some situations and at best unhelpful in others. Furthermore, not all WAN acceleration devices and software stacks do the same things. Read on to understand when WAN accelerators really deliver faster WAN networking.