WAN Data Acceleration Powers Back-Up-as-a-Service, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
Data Centre ICT Networking Product of the Year
Entry Description
Bridgeworks' WAN Acceleration technologies accelerate data transfers and eliminate data management challenges are known as ‘WAN acceleration’. Bridgeworks patented artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies accelerate organisation's existing technologies and dramatically accelerate their Wide Area Networks (WANs). AI underpins the patented technology to provide process intelligence, reduce latency and mitigate packet loss. Our solutions, such as PORTrockIT, dramatically improve data throughput up to 98% of bandwidth – regardless of distance. Organisations can therefore gain significant WAN performance without touching any of their data, maintaining security protocols, governance & compliance.

WAN Acceleration is re-defining Wide Area Networks by enabling organisations to reach transfer speeds up to 200x faster, whether with large volumes of data, encrypted or media files. By dramatically alleviating the effects of latency and packet loss data can get to where it needs to be quicker while maximising business performance with dramatic ROI.

Solutions such as Bridgeworks PORTrockIT go beyond the traditional choices and capabilities of WAN Optimisation and SD-WAN, allowing organisations to improve the efficiency of their WAN links. Francois Steyl, a former Solutions Architect at StratIT and now a Sales Specialist at Datacentrix says:
“Bridgeworks is unique in what it does, and addresses the latency, packet loss and ingress and egress rates which is the culprit for poor throughput rates across the WAN. The ease of the Virtual appliance deployment and the adjusting of routing rules makes Bridgeworks the clear solution to accelerate data across a customer’s WAN. The implementation of Bridgeworks’ solutions at Investec Private Bank, has realised a 424% increase in total traffic sent across the WAN, which provides an almost instantaneous Return on Investment”.

For Investec Private Bank, alternatives such as Aryaka were considered, but solutions such as PORTrockIT were found to meet all of Investec’s requirements after a proof of concept (POC) of 6 months duration. This POC was carried out after StratIT introduced Investec to Bridgeworks.

POC: No Acceleration

The baseline for the POC began with no acceleration, and with host-to-host traffic with accelerator in-path. The total traffic transferred between 1st February and 1st April 2018 was 9.3TB. The average rate of transfer was 3-5MB/s, and all of the databases were out of sync.

POC: With Acceleration

The next step was to add accelerator to accelerator traffic in-path of servers. The total traffic transferred between 1st February and 1st April 2019 equalled 55TB. This amounted to a 424% increase in total traffic, with an average rate of transfer 11-15MB/s. Unlike when there was no WAN data acceleration, all of the Oracle and SQL databases were in sync.

Journalist Joe O’Halloran writes in his Computerweekly article, 'Investec Bank cashes in on WAN acceleration' that Mark Backes, infrastructure architect and team lead at Investec Bank, said the company couldn't simply add faster connectivity at the problem: “No matter how much bandwidth we threw, we couldn’t resolve [the challenges] with more speed. TCP application packet acceleration was the limiting factor – there is only so much a day that you can push, and we just had to find a way to reduce latency.”
Backes concludes: "The bottom line of the WAN acceleration technology is that more people can go online and are able to trade – and that means money. The type of gains taken from the Bridgeworks technology will now be put into future RFPs. “We need a federation of acceleration.”

Venesia Oxford, Senior Account Manager at Datacentrix has also stated: “Through the utilisation of the Bridgeworks technology, Investec can finally utilise more of their actual Bandwidth investment, compared to what was possible in the past. The improved application response times means quicker turnaround times enabling faster decision making which impacts customer satisfaction and internal business collaborations. The Bridgeworks technology is one of the data management principles available to customers from the all-encompassing data management portfolio offered from Datacentrix."
The Bank has 10,000 employees. As for its IT environment it currently has:

• An MPLS WAN link with a handover from one SP to another between continents.
• A Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Operating systems on Dell commodity kit.
• An Oracle Enterprise Database, SQL Enterprise Database.

Tackling challenges

For the purpose of GDPR the Investec must ensure critical system data in not older than a few hours to meet regulatory requirements. Data sovereignty regulations for SecuritEase mean the servers will need to be hosted in the EU. Subsequently, the data cannot be older than a few hours to achieve compliance with the regulations.
Investec Wealth and Investment require access to servers residing in the UK to provide clients with offshore investment capability. The Bank is partnered with Swiss Bank, and it uses its Swiss brokering licence.
The issue is that geographic latency between South Africa and the UK meant less than 20% utilisation of WAN links for the replication of RRP data. MPLS latency between the two countries is +-180ms. The time for these data sets to be moved across the South Africa and the UK link is currently between 14-15 hours, which can cause challenges in keeping RRP databases in synchronicity.
The need to achieve the following led Investec to Bridgeworks:

• Reduce data replication times and keeping DB’s in sync;
• Reduce non-productive transfer windows;
• Ability to fully utilise all available WAN bandwidth i.e. WAN infrastructure investment is right sized to the transfer task ;
• Ability to reduce application visible latency i.e. deliver content quicker to customers and collaborators.
• Minimal impact and footprint to existing WAN/LAN infrastructure
• Solution available as virtual machine
• Software/Routing changes required for acceleration no need to deploy additional physical hardware to the environment.

The price of Bridgeworks solutions was also a factor that attracted Investec. The Bank expects to save money as a result of the introduction of Bridgeworks WAN Data Acceleration solutions. It will also allow Investec to fully utilise the available bandwidth between the sites – helping to resolve the core business problems faced by Investec – such as the replication of SQL and Oracle enterprise databases.

South African Insurance company expedites data with WAN Acceleration

A South African Insurance company needed to speed up its data replication and to reduce latency between its 3 data centres. The firm’s main Centurion data centre is in Die Hoewes and the second is in Doringkloof – both in the Pretoria and Johannesburg area. The third data centre is in Parc Du Cap Bellville in Cape Town.

The latency between the Parc Du Cap Belleville (PDC) Cape Town is over 20 milliseconds. A network architect from the insurance company explained that most of the data replication occurs between the Die Hoewes and the PDC data centres. Replication activity with the Doringkloof occurs, but it isn’t so significant. However, the firm has 40Gb fibre links and the latency between them is 1m/s.

The important factor to note is that data routing happens to and from wherever an application resides. In 2020, the business decided to decommission the Doringkloof data centre, and its team began to ask questions about what would happen If they removed it from their armoury. These queries were about what would happen to the data replication traffic. Despite all of the data centres remaining active, they found that they had to re-route the data traffic – making the Centurion and PDC data centres the main ones with traffic being re-routed to PDC from Centurion.

Latency conundrum

The company’s network architect explains the issue that occurred: “This means latency would be 20 times worse. How do we address that? Regardless of our link size between Centurion and PDC, we were going to have lower throughput speeds. We had to ensure that latency is not going to be a constant issue, making sure that our replication finishes in time.”

To find a solution, the network, application, and infrastructure teams were asked to investigate the latency problem to find a way to resolve it. “They couldn’t find anything they could do on the Veritas NetBackup Application”, he reveals, before explaining that Veritas NetBackup is an enterprise-level heterogeneous backup and recovery suite.

The suite provides cross-platform backup functionality to a large variety of Windows, UNIX, and Linux operating systems. NetBackup features a central master server which manages both media servers (containing the backup media) and clients. Core server platforms include Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, Tru64, Linux and Windows. Netbackup database backend is based in Sybase.

Data compression inability

Another problem arose in that they could not do compression on the server side. They therefore asked: “Is there any form of network device that could beat this latency?” To resolve this issue, the company’s network team explored devices and services that could address it. First off, they went to Riverbed and Exinda.

The network architect explains why: “We already have Exinda in our network, and we knew about Riverbed. They both do WAN optimisation, which relies on caching at the other end. It gives you the impression and the illusion of beating latency, but it didn’t work for us. If you look at NetBackup, it relies on the same type of data being sent over the WAN.”

“With NetBackup, they don’t re-send data. It goes through the system and asks: what did I send to you before? Every time it sends data, it’s new data. So, we realised it’s not going to work for us. If I have a server, I want a copy backed up somewhere. It has to happen within a time window, otherwise it may be deleted the next day. If your data replication takes too long, it affects your next day’s replication. We then approached Datacentrix. They usually provide us with network equipment, and so we asked for suggestions.”

POC: Accelerating replication

Datacentrix referred the insurance company’s teams to Bridgeworks. As a result of proof of concept, (POC) was carried out on 20th November 2020 and ended on 26th January 2021. With Bridgeworks they studied the POC, using the NetBackup application. The results were significantly notable as they enabled WAN acceleration and data optimisation.

WAN Acceleration takes the traffic and breaks it up to send it over our WAN links, sending smaller, multiple links. Organisations can then send their data faster over the WAN. There is no caching of the data involved. The network architect adds that it “involved a virtual deployment of Bridgeworks, and that the POC was an evaluation of PORTrockIT.”

The POC involved the following:

- VPR 400/PR 800
- The Bridgeworks devices to be placed in the Centurion and PDC Cape Town Data Centre’s
- Licensing - 20Gbps bandwidth & Protocol (NetBackup) –additional protocols to be added at a later stage.
- Virtual appliance is preferred.

Up to 25 times faster

He reveals that data transfers were around 25 times faster after POC deployment. “We tested NetBackup speeds without Bridgeworks, and then tested the same data backup with Bridgeworks”, he says. Tests over the 20ms latency with a 200GB file would normally take 1 hour and 42 minutes with a single TCP/IP session. The average network utilisation was 400 Mb/s.
The team then added Exinda WAN Optimisation with 20ms and a 200GB file. To complete the replication, it took 18 hours with a single TCP/IP session. The average network utilisation was 40Mb/s. The Exinda licence for the POC involved 1Gb/s shaping and acceleration of 150Mb/s.

Furthermore, according to current statistics, the replication of a 270GB file took 46 minutes to complete. With Bridgeworks PORTrockIT, a 220GB data file was replicated in just 25 minutes – over 4 times faster. So, a third test was carried out, this time with a 50GB replication, which completed in only 7 minutes. More tests are expected, as they need to study how two more applications performance with PORTrockIT, and further applications, will be added over time with licensing needed to cater for additional services and protocols.

Recommending Bridgeworks

The network architect therefore recommends Bridgeworks: “Organisations should speak to Bridgeworks if they have latency challenges that are affecting your application and replication performance. I would recommend Bridgeworks. We have been through the process and we have gained significant results. I am happy and impressed. We had a concern, but the solution gave us the results we were looking for.” There are now discussions within insurance company to expand the scope of possible deployment of both virtual and physical solutions across its matrix.
Supporting Documents