Dec 17 2012

WAN Optimization Accelerates Higher Education

Colleges use solutions to gain visibility into the network and prioritize traffic.

Geography has played an important role in getting the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth onboard with WAN optimization for almost a decade.

“Because we’re located on the coast — about 50 miles south of Boston and 30 miles east of Providence — we have to make the most of the infrastructure we have,” says Richard Pacheco, UMass Dartmouth’s network systems manager. “We pay a premium for bandwidth in our region, so it was important to use WAN optimization to better manage our bandwidth.”

For the past three years, UMass Dartmouth has used an Exinda 8760 WAN optimization solution, mainly to prioritize academic and business traffic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and residential traffic during the off hours. Although the university recently expanded its network to 800 megabits per second, Pacheco says WAN optimization still makes sense for the university. “Believe it or not, 65 percent of our traffic is streaming video, which includes Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, QuickTime and Flash videos,” he says. “The Exinda tools also let us break out exactly what traffic is on the network. Without them, we’d be flying blind.”

The Exinda tools classify the traffic by application, enabling UMass Dartmouth to equitably allocate bandwidth. For example, at night, each student has access to 4Mbps per IP address.  “For the 4,200 students who live here on campus, this is their home, and we want them to have the features they are accustomed to at home,” Pacheco says.

30% The percentage of survey respondents who encountered challenges in delivering latency-sensitive applications such as VoIP and video to remote locations

SOURCE: “The Evolution of WAN Optimization” (Enterprise Strategy Group, February 2012)

Bob Laliberte, senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says WAN optimization has become ubiquitous as IT departments such as UMass Dartmouth’s find that there are simply more applications for them to accelerate now. “Today, organizations are using WAN optimization to ensure a quality experience for a new wave of applications, from SharePoint to video traffic, desktop virtualization apps and other cloud applications.”

Video on Demand

Bandwidth management also takes a high priority at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where Netflix and other rich media sources reign as the most popular applications. Wentworth, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Wheelock College — three schools in the Colleges of the Fenway consortium — use Exinda gear to manage traffic across the WAN. The colleges in the consortium share a WAN, but each has its own data center and IT staff.

Mark Staples, CIO at Wentworth, says the Exinda gear enables the IT staff to set policies to allow appropriate academic, business and recreational traffic and scale back inappropriate peer-to-peer content such as LimeWire or BitTorrent. He says the WAN optimization solution inspects every packet, even those that are encrypted. “The tools are not looking at the content,” he says. “They are looking at the file type, whether it’s video or audio.”

Staples says IT shops must brace for an onslaught of digital traffic. “Smartphone users who in the past used the device only as a phone are now accessing apps as never before,” he says. “All of this demand means we have to optimize every part of the network, not just the WAN.”

For more about WAN optimization product capabilities, see "WAN Optimization Products Change with the Times."