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'Trucknet' to what's next for cloud data delivery: WAN accelerators

The idea of a FedEx truck picking up your data for transport to a cloud provider might elicit either chuckles or groans, depending on your point of view. It’s one solution to a bandwidth crunch, but what enterprises really need for enterprise-to-cloud deployments are wide area network (WAN) accelerators, according to Michael Draper, global director for PaaS Operations at Pegasystems Inc., a business process management software provider in Cambridge, Mass.

Draper contacted me this week to elaborate on a remark he made at a recent Society for Information Management meeting about the FedEx “trucknet.” “The enterprise has always been challenged with moving massive amounts of data across the WAN,” he said. “Forget about the cloud. If a company needs to move terabytes of data from point A to point B and a WAN needs to be traversed, then a solution needs to be carefully thought out. Moving the same amount of data across a network that you don’t own or manage becomes even more challenging.” WAN accelerators help companies manage and move massive amounts of data, he said, but today there is a shortage of WAN acceleration products for cloud services.

Nominal amounts of data can be moved easily and securely between the enterprise and a cloud service provider, and businesses routinely place production systems in the cloud that access data securely within the enterprise. The challenge that enterprises have — moving gigabytes or terabytes of data across a WAN — doesn’t go away with the introduction of cloud services, he said.

“[WAN accelerators] is one area that is ripe for new products and services,” Draper said. “If you need to move terabytes of data to the cloud, it could take days. FedEx, being the smart company that it is, picked up on this need and partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide companies with a kind of updated sneakernet.

The service, called AWS Import/Export, lets customers ship large amounts of data on portable storage devices to AWS. “It may sound like an old-school solution, but it will work and can be more cost-effective than using the Net,” Draper said. Expect to see a variety of new products and services launched over the next year that will help the enterprise address the challenge of moving large amounts of data in and out of the cloud, he added. “This is definitely a growth area.”

Take a look at my data

Of course, with that much data being moved into the cloud, integration and monitoring tools are becoming even more critical, experts say.

I wrote about a couple of cloud-to-enterprise data integration tools on a couple of weeks back, and have been paying close attention to new offerings that up the ante with such stylish-sounding technologies as behavior learning and harmonized data.

“Behavior learning tools have the potential to massively improve business service performance and availability” by establishing “normal behavior patterns” in data flowing in from various sources, and detecting deviations before a problem arises, Gartner analyst David Williams said. Another approach is to compare the data elements from multiple sources to establish a “record of truth.”

Advances in monitoring tools are game-changing, experts said, enabling IT to move from being an interrupt-driven organization to one that drives the business (by focusing on the infrastructure). Many of the new monitoring tools provide graphical user interfaces that unlock the essence of enterprise data for regular business users. “It harkens back to the day when the first browser came out and we were able to surf,” an industry executive said. Read about these developments in monitoring tools on next week.

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