I came across the news recently where Exchange hosting providers give lots of attention to WAN Optimization these days and I thought of giving my perspective here in this blog post.
Exchange Hoster's Pain points with bandwidth
The Exchange Hosting industry is becoming popular day by day, with growing numbers of providers everywhere providing Messaging & collaboration services to customers around the world, these customers are mostly SMEs. Microsoft Exchange being the core component of this service, it has been evolving from old versions to provide better functionalities, features and user experiences. Now with Exchange 2007 server, users can do even better. However, what about the performance? Customers by and large work from different locations, such as on the road, in a meeting with their customers, while commuting, etc. And these users often complain about slowness in accessing email client (e.g. Outlook). In an Exchange hosting scenario, all your customers have Internet connections and high bandwidth ADSL or slow connections depend on the customer's location and internet infrastructure readiness. So, even if the hosting providers increase the bandwidth and no of servers in its datacenter, the customers are still stuck with these basic performance issues - Latency, a nightmare word for every customer as well as hosting providers.
This application latency gets magnified over a period of time, and hosters start scratching their head to put off the fire from customers at different angles in the world. Well, things are changing as there are solutions in the market today from various companies that offer increases in application performance, reliable connections and even high availability. Recently I was reading some news in the press about Akamai that provide a solution which transforms internet into a business-quality application delivery infrastructure and the outcomes are performance, scalability, visibility and control to mission-critical applications such as email delivered over the Internet. Despite the customers being SMEs, they are spread across either regional or global organizations. So email availability is key to them due to working requirements in all time zones. Apart from this, the workforce nowadays is mobile and accessing email, contacts and calendars is really critical. As reiterated before, connections from users email client must be quick, consistent and reliable when they access this information.
What must be done to achieve this?
Following are a hosting provider's big challenges to address these concerns from customers:
- Consistency - To be able to deliver consistent performance to all customers in order to ensure high customer retention rates.
- Email Resiliency - Hosting providers are solely relying on internet to provide email services to its customers. Hence build infrastructure in such a way that hosters mitigate its impact if the Internet conditions goes beyond its control.
- Scalability - Keep increasing WAN bandwidth and no of servers may not solve the application slowness problem and latency. So the infrastructure should be equipped and be able to grow its business without complex technology and additional infrastructure overhead.
Who can help?
Certainly, WAN optimization is one of my answers to address the above concerns in general. For example, Hosters integrate their state of the art Exchange hosting infrastructure with Akamai's proprietary transport and routing protocols to offer global sub-second response times, secure delivery and control of applications from a single, centralized data center to meet the needs of customers, partners and employees around the world. Using a similar platform like Akamai, Hosters can ensure that Internet disruptions such as circuit failures, which are beyond the hoster's control, can be avoided in a dynamic fashion. This assures that users will always have quick and reliable access to their Outlook and Outlook Web and Mobile Device applications, regardless of their location or what is happening on the Internet. Implementing similar WAN optimization solution at hoster's datacenter will help them achieve LAN-like network consistency, performance and reliability over the Internet.
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