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Cloud WAN Optimization Holds the Key to Driving Enterprise RaaS Adoption

Cost-effective, easy-to-implement, and easy-to-manage disaster recovery and business continuity

In a constant effort to improve customers' cloud experience and increase adoption, cloud providers are starting to introduce WAN optimization capabilities into their service offerings. This technology will allow organizations to realize significant performance improvements for cloud applications. For providers who have global cloud ecosystems, this is an extremely important step forward. One area in particular that will benefit from WAN optimization is Recovery as a Service (RaaS), a cloud-based solution that uses predetermined sets of processes to allow enterprises to implement disaster recovery in the cloud. Traditional disaster recovery/business continuity (DR/BC) solutions, including hot sites and secondary data centers, have commonly been costly to implement, and RaaS solutions have emerged as a better alternative.

RaaS is still a fairly young technology, but coupled with the advantages of WAN optimization, could be poised for impressive growth. To date, much of the traction for RaaS has been with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). This is mainly due to the fact that companies of this size, particularly the mid-tier businesses, have been among the most prevalent early adopters of the cloud. Many have IT infrastructures that aren't large enough to reap all of the benefits of virtualization but can still gain significant savings and operational improvements by moving to the cloud. In addition, the amount of data involved in the SMB recovery process is typically more moderate in scope, so the bandwidth requirements are manageable from a cost perspective, even with limited data reduction mechanisms. However, while RaaS can dramatically reduce the amount of data being sent to the recovery site (via block level replication, compression, de-duplication, multi-threading, network "throttling, caching), the bandwidth requirements and associated costs can still be quite substantial for larger organizations with massive amounts of data to be protected.

These enterprises, which have been slower than their smaller business counterparts to adopt cloud computing, are now migrating at a faster rate. One of the primary reasons for this is the increasing rate of adoption of virtualization in their environments, which research firm Gartner now estimates to be close to 50 percent. As virtualization takes hold, moving production servers to the cloud has become easier and more cost-effective. Instead of refreshing hardware and continuing to run IT as they always have, CIOs are increasingly seeing the cloud as a viable alternative.

In addition to increased virtualization, larger companies are now more comfortable with the security profiles that most cloud providers have adopted. Cloud providers have worked hard to upgrade the security features they provide and have made improvements spanning a variety of areas, including facilities, network and user access, perimeter controls, data encryption, compliance, enhanced monitoring and management and operating system updates, among others.

These improvements have facilitated the migration of more production environments to the cloud. As larger companies undertake these migrations, DR/BC in the cloud becomes of paramount importance. Even if a company decides to keep its production servers in-house, the cloud is becoming a very attractive alternative to having a secondary data center for DR/BC purposes. The biggest challenge then becomes how to efficiently and cost-effectively move all of the data that needs to be protected. Don't forget, large enterprises may have hundreds of terabytes (TBs) or petabytes (PBs) of data they need to secure.

This is where WAN optimization comes into play. By combining all of the inherent benefits of WAN optimization with the aforementioned features built into RaaS offerings, a powerful solution to the data movement challenge is enabled. It will allow for large volumes of data to be transferred quickly and cost-effectively and will make RaaS an extremely viable solution for large enterprises.

On a more granular level, the key benefits that WAN optimization brings to the RaaS market include:

  • More efficient use of a network link. Depending upon a customer's Recovery Point Objective (RPO), which is the maximum amount of time in which data may be lost from an IT service outage, and Recovery Time Objective (RTO), which is the maximum amount of time before a customer is operational after an IT service outage, they can either push greater amounts of data over an existing link or similar amounts of data over a smaller link. Either way, the customer is receiving performance and cost benefits.
  • Improved RPOs and RTOs. For example, if a customer is conducting daily backups, which translates to a 24-hour RPO, and has an RTO of 12 hours (about the best that can be achieved in a backup environment), these could be reduced to minutes via the use of RaaS and WAN optimization. On the surface, the cost of RaaS will appear to be more expensive than straight backup, but in reality it is not, if the cost of downtime is factored in. Often, just saving one to two hours of downtime is more than enough to tip the scales in favor of RaaS
  • Fast and effective failback and failover. RaaS software provides companies with the ability to reverse the replication process whereby data is replicated from the recovery site to the primary site and users are "failedback" when data is synched at both sites. The key here is that the failback replication process is taking place in the background with no impact on the production environment that is running at the recovery site. An additional benefit of this process, especially when augmented by WAN optimization, is that companies can failover to their secondary site for short periods of time knowing how easy it is to failback. This is an important requirement for the enterprise market.
  • Enhanced data caching. Raas with WAN optimization provides the ability to cache data for longer periods of time for asynchronous replication before sending data to the secondary site. This lets customers suspend servers at the secondary site when data is not being sent, offering further cost reductions to an already cost-effective solution

With cloud providers beginning to incorporate WAN optimization into their global architectures, this could be a tipping point for RaaS, finally driving significant adoption beyond SMBs and making it a viable solution for the enterprise market as well. All of the pieces are now in place for the cloud to become the site of choice for cost-effective, easy-to-implement, and easy-to-manage disaster recovery and business continuity.

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Geoff Sinn is Principal Cloud Consultant for Dimension Data, Americas. He is recognized as a pioneer and thought leader in the area of Managed Services and Cloud Computing and has successfully implemented a Managed Services business six times, both as new ventures inside larger companies and as stand-alone entities. Geoff has over two decades of experience covering a wide range of disciplines including storage; backup; replication; disaster recovery/business continuity; e-discovery, software-as-a-service; archiving; security; remote monitoring and management; and hosting.

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