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Delivering Application Optimization for Office 365

We in IT are faced with many challenges from our end users.  From IT costs to application performance, while always keeping an eye on our network security posture.  This reminds me of a sign on the wall of my auto mechanic’s shop: Good, Fast, Low-cost. I was always told I am allowed to pick only two.  I would of course question him, “why cant I have something with high quality, on time, and within budget?”  This always made him smile, but he still told me I could only pick two.

So back to our IT challenges: Cost, Performance, and Security. Application performance is something we can all see, feel and touch. When thinking about performance, we need to also consider where these applications are coming from.  Looking at applications like Microsoft’s Office 365, we are seeing mission critical applications from outside our data centers being delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS) solution. Does this matter to our end users?  They sit at their PC’s, Tablets, Mac’s, etc. and know when something is not going fast enough.  Their expectations are growing; they always expect the best performance. If they don’t feel their Outlook e-mail is opening fast enough or that the saving of their PowerPoint file is taking too long, they do not hesitate to let us know.  And oddly enough, everyone just assumes it is the network.  So not only do we need to think about our networks, but the Internet performance as well.

Our challenge is to understand “why”.  Why are applications slower in one site than another? Why are some users calling the support desk while others are not?  Why are some of our WAN links congested while others are as expected or planned? In a world where more apps are moving to the cloud, and mobility and video is on the rise, these questions will get more difficult to address. Now, core business applications like your Microsoft Office suite are going to be delivered on Office 365, via “the cloud” from who knows where.

Fortunately, the Cisco Intelligent WAN (IWAN) solution  can quickly help IT understand what is going on “under the hood” and answer why. Better yet, it can provide the control, optimization and security, too. Cisco IWAN is built on the foundation of four key pillars: Transport Independence, Intelligent Path Control, Application Optimization, and Secure Connectivity.

IWAN Pillars

In my last blog I shared how Transport Independent designs and Intelligent Path Control can solve some of our challenges in leveraging the Internet as a viable WAN transport alternative.  This allowed us to look at the “cost”.  Now we want to look at the “performance” and one solution that can directly affect this is application acceleration.  Integrated tools, like Cisco Wide Area Application Services (WAAS), bring application acceleration to our core routing platforms, thus eliminating the complexities of overlay solutions. This tool provides the robust application specific acceleration and bandwidth optimization for today’s mission critical business tools.

Noam Syrkin, one of our Application Experience technical experts recently published a technical white paper on how Cisco WAAS, as part of the IWAN solution, can provide application acceleration for Microsoft’s SaaS Office 365 offering “Accelerate Microsoft Office 365 Shared Deployments with Cisco WAAS WAN Optimization”. This paper focuses on a typical deployment use case in which the client to cloud traffic is encrypted with SSL and is being backhauled over the WAN to the data center for a centralized Internet access environment.  Noam has taken a tested and validated approach to leveraging IWAN’s application optimization tools, and applied it directly to this real world application that is challenging our customers today.

Application optimization of encrypted http traffic types such as Microsoft’s Office 365 can be a challenge for some organizations.  As more business critical applications move to these public cloud offerings, being able to differentiate the traffic types requires an integrated solution that has the visibility tools to identify HTTP based applications even when they are encrypted.  The components of the IWAN solution use NBAR2,  Netflowv9 and IPFIX, to report application information to centralized network management tools and provide network administrators the Application Visibility of the traffic traversing their Regional WAN connections.

And, to ensure your business critical data is protected, the IWAN solution maintains the strong application encryption of SSL/TLS used to deliver Office 365 across the network to the end-users.  This is laid out in detail within this technical white paper.

Over my next few blogs I will provide some “sneak peaks” into the Cisco Live San Francisco IWAN sessions that I am part of, including a Hand On Lab for deploying the IWAN Solution, A deep dive into the Application Visibility and Optimization, and finally a full day Techtorial on Implementing the  IWAN solution.

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