Easter egg WAN: How technology reliance can crack retail enterprises

Mar 28, 2024

Bridgeworks features in this article from Data Centre & Network News to discuss the success of WAN Acceleration in assisting retail enterprises in overcoming cyber security, backup and storage challenges.

Easter egg WAN: How technology reliance can crack retail enterprises Bridgeworks
March 28, 2024


The increasing dependency on technology, and its burgeoning complexity, is making enterprises more vulnerable. That view is supported by journalist Kurt Robson, who writes about the IT outages at McDonald’s, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. The standfirst of his article for Verdict suggests, “The outages demonstrate how increased complexity and scale of business IT systems are likely to cause more frequent service interruptions.”

It also shows how vulnerable businesses and their operations can be in the face of wide scale IT issues, whether caused by a software update glitch, or by a cyber attack. Think about it for a moment. Easter is just around the corner. How much in sales revenue could be lost by more of these kinds of disruptions, both in-store and via disruptions to e-commerce websites.

Sales: worth protecting

Finder.com projects £2.1bn in consumer spending over the Easter weekend in the UK in 2024 – anything from chocolate Easter eggs to gifts, decorations and entertainment. The National Retail Federation in the US adds, “Consumer spending is expected to reach a total of $22.4bn this Easter, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.”

In the UK, Statista says, “in retail alone, online sales constituted 26.5% of overall retail sales in the country in 2022 – over double the amount from exactly one decade prior.” These statistics and forecasts just go to show how much is at stake for retail enterprises. They can ill-afford any cracks appear in their annual Easter nest egg. So, the best thing they can do is to invest in technologies that can enable them to achieve as much uptime as possible.

This includes retailers and their data centres, as well as other organisations, investing in their wide area networks (WAN) – even more so if a company has an e-commerce arm. WANs tend to suffer from latency and packet loss. They are a bit like too many Easter bunnies trying to squeeze into one rabbit hole and warren, making it impossible to hobble, hop or pass.

There often isn’t the bandwidth to do these things, and so applications, websites, as well as the ability to back up and restore data at speed, are impeded. Easter rabbits may be able to dig to make their warrens better and wider, but enterprises may find that investing in large pipes makes no difference. Likewise, investing in WAN optimisation often doesn’t live up to its promise especially with higher bandwidth WANs that are now in play, and when sending and receive encrypted data it has no effect whatsoever. Even the most favoured networking technology – the good old SD-WAN – often needs a WAN Acceleration overlay to boost its performance.

Business and service continuity

While many articles talk about disaster recovery – the ability to get back up and running whenever downtime is caused by a cyber attack, or some other serious issue, David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks, says the focus of this technology is to enable business and service continuity.

He explains, “It particularly matters at this time of the year. Nobody should hope for the best, and hope that the Easter bunny can be pulled out of the hat when an IT disaster strikes. Organisations should consider all possibilities to ensure that they can continue to operate unabated.”

Yes, it also has a role in disaster recovery in that WAN acceleration technologies, such as PORTrockIT, offer a very high recovery point objective (RPO), and an exceedingly fast recovery time objective (RTO), while also increasing bandwidth utilisation to up to 98%. However, organisations of all kinds should focus inasmuch as possible on maintaining their operations. This doesn’t mean that they should be prepared for the worst, whether that’s at Easter or at any other point in time during any particular financial year. They should also need to ensure that there are no cracks in their IT strategy that could lead to a worse scenario causing any financial and reputational damage.

AI, ML, and data parallelisation

Let’s return briefly to the warren analogy. By creating new pathways, the bunnies can move through the warren faster, and the more rabbits can hop or ‘flow’ easily through the tunnels. To do this, and to get out of a situation where no bunny can move through the tunnels, they use their own intelligence and learning. What WAN acceleration does is use artificial intelligence, machine learning and data parallelisation to create and improve the flow of data. Latency and packet loss can also be mitigated while significantly improving bandwidth utilisation.

While WAN acceleration may not have resolved the software upgrading issue of Sainsbury’s EPOS retailer systems, or even the disruptions in their online shopping logistics, it can improve the accuracy of real-time big data analytics. This is by significantly boosting the ability to store applications and data over large distances from each other. It can improve the ability to back up and restore data over hours, rather than days too. So, as the annual Easter egg hunts begin, organisations should consider whether they have the right technologies in place to protect their operations.

This doesn’t mean they have to ditch their existing tech and network infrastructures. By using WAN acceleration, much can be done with what organisations already have. After all, replacing an existing pipe with one that has more bandwidth, may not always increase data throughput.

Say, for example, if wider tunnels were created by the rabbits and more Easter bunnies were to hop through them, there could still be a blockage, unless issues, such as latency and packet loss, are mitigated. That would require some intelligence to be used to control data flow. That intelligence and machine learning can be applied to legacy networks today, enabling continuity.

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