Technology White Paper

SitePathMTPX: Point to Point Resilience for Applications over Internet/WAN Connections

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SitePathMPTX White Paper

Table of Contents
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Executive Summary.................................................................................................................................. 3 Overview of the Problem ......................................................................................................................... 3 SitePathMTPX Operating Principles ...................................................................................................... 4 SitePathMTPX Balancing Algorithms .................................................................................................... 6 SitePath as its Own Failover – Mesh Networks ................................................................................... 7 Customer Scenario: Victrix ...................................................................................................................... 8 Return on Investment versus Downtime-related Losses.................................................................... 8 Conclusion ................................................................................................................................................. 9

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1. Executive Summary
Point to point applications have been a part of the information technology space for a very long time, and they have evolved into essential business services where key activities depend on them on a daily basis. Commonly found point to point applications in business organizations include branch office virtual private network tunnels, voice over IP deployments, file transfer systems and business continuity/disaster recovery projects. 2. Overview of the Problem Internet access is the commonly preferred communication vector employed by organizations for its affordability and availability. As discussed in the “Business Continuity: Proactive Telecom Strategies for Decision Makers” White Paper published by Elfiq Networks, public ISP links are expected to suffer failure on a regular basis, and contingency planning is key to continual and normal operations. When point to point applications are operating on these links and they suffer either significant congestion or downtime, key applications such as accessing an organization’s ERP system, email, internal Web services and many more are unavailable for the duration of the issue. Depending on the duration, the impact can prove to be mild for a few minutes but in many cases severe, where connection losses measured in days can result in significant financial losses. In such cases, orders cannot be processed easily, employee productivity is taxed with unplanned events and customer relationships may suffer as a result of downtime.

The reason for such issues is that a single ISP link is utilized to serve the bandwidth for point to point applications, and in this context the potential points of failure are summed because they have to be accounted for at each end point. So when an ISP link fails at one end, both ends stop communicating, and should one end point suffer from saturation, the other end suffers the same result. In the context of many to one environments, where multiple sites connect to a central site, the central site becomes the strategic point of failure, where, should it fail or suffer bandwidth degradation, all the satellite sites connected to it will suffer a loss of service at the same time for the same period, causing significant productivity degradation and potential financial losses.

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3. SitePathMTPX Operating Principles

To simplify the following discussion from this point on, the context of VPNs through firewalls will be used. Please note that any point to point application such as file transfer or VoIP will benefit equally from SitePathMTPX. Also, the context will involve two end points and two routers to simplify the discussion, but SitePathMTPX can handle multiple sites depending on the model.

SitePathMTPX from Elfiq Networks is an innovative approach to resolving both performance and downtime issues experienced by organizations for point to point applications. At its core, Elfiq’s Layer-2 implementation provides a seamless , transparent installation of the Elfiq Link Balancers in a customer environment without reconfiguring existing network devices residing on the carrier side of the network (WAN), namely firewalls, VPN gateways and routers. From the point of view of the firewall, there is no change whatsoever so it transacts with the Elfiq Link Balancer as if it was the original router, but the Elfiq handles the original router as well as the additional ones. This “original link” configuration concept is known as the “primary link” in the Elfiq environment and is a key concept in the product’s design. Once both sites have the Elfiq unit in place, without any modifications the VPN tunnel between the firewalls can resume as it was before through each site’s primary link.

Each connection between each ISP connected to each Elfiq Link Balancer is called a SitePath, and a SitePath Group is the sum of SitePaths connected to another site.

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Elfiq Link Balancers can now be used to their full potential to strengthen the VPN tunnel by exchanging SitePath information about real-time traffic information handled though each router in place on both ends. Once this exchange is configured and set into action, multiple routers can be used to transmit data from one end to another, providing two key benefits:

1. Performance enhancement: since both units exchange link metrics, based on the selected algorithm, the fastest available link can be selected to improve overall performance, eliminating the saturation bottleneck often experienced in VPNs. This performance improvement operates in both directions of the SitePathMTPX relationship.

2. Resilience: should an ISP link fail, the local Elfiq unit will re-adjust the traffic flow to the available link(s) to ensure continuity and communicate to the other unit the change in available links, preventing a cancellation of the VPN session between the two sites and guaranteeing normal continuous operations even with an unavailable link. When the defective link returns to normal, it gets re-added to the list of links selected for SitePathMTPX.

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In the SitePathMTPX feature, the concept of a SitePath is one of the colored lines in the diagrams above, while a SitePath Group is all the SitePaths connected to another site. A single unit can have more than one SitePath Group connecting to multiple remote sites.

Another function of SitePathMTPX is the ability to provide quality of service (QoS) for its traffic, to ensure enough bandwidth is available to provide the required service and also to prevent overutilization of the bandwidth by SitePathMTPX in certain contexts to ensure optimal bandwidth distribution.

Unlike other technologies, this is transparent for any type of point to point traffic, where no VPN tunnel is created between each router, thus simplifying network design, consuming fewer resources and being completely agnostic. Also, SitePathMTPX tunnels can be encrypted in AES128 should the point to point application require a higher level of security but none exists.

4. SitePathMTPX Balancing Algorithms
One of the key advantages and a unique feature of SitePathMTPX is the ability to select one of four algorithms designed for this particular functionality: 1- Weight First Algorithm (WFA): this algorithm will use a SitePath based on its weight and available bandwidth. 2- Best SitePath First (BSFA): this algorithm selects the most appropriate SitePath based on statistics and cumulative metrics to select the path with the most available bandwidth. 3- Round Trip Time First Algorithm (RTFA): this algorithm dynamically selects the SitePath based on round trip times (RTT) of packets.

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4- Multiplexing (MTPX): this algorithm enables bandwidth virtualization by aggregating multiple paths into one virtual path for increased throughput. It requires links of similar specifications and performance for optimal use.

5. SitePath as its Own Failover – Mesh Networks
On any Elfiq Link Balancer, SitePathMTPX enables at least two SitePath Groups to connect to multiple sites. Should more sites, such as business continuity sites, be interconnected in a centralized environment, SitePathMTPX can be used to “mesh” point to point applications in missioncritical environments.

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6. Customer Scenario: Victrix
Victrix is an IT solution provider that decided to invest in deploying multiple ISPs across their sites to improve performance and reliability. Having deployed more expensive 10Mbps fiber circuits at their primary sites, they required more throughput and redundancy through carrier technology combinations. With SitePathMTPX, the office to office connectivity issues of saturation and occasional ISP link downtime were eliminated, and DSL/cable modems were used to enhance the redundancy of the solution, so if one carrier network is unavailable another should be ready to take over the tasks until service is restored.

A full case study is available at www.elfiq.com.

7. Return on Investment versus Downtime-related Losses
Since every organization is different, this metric can be either simple or complex to measure. Key items commonly used to determine the return on investment of a bandwidth improvement should include: number of outages in the last year with duration number of significantly degraded periods in the last year financial losses/lost sales due to downtime average productivity losses per employee per outage metric for existing links before and after implementation cost of each available ISP link. Elfiq provides a free ROI calculation tool at www.elfiq.com, so organizations can start building estimates based on these calculations.

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8. Conclusion
Point to point applications such as VPNs and VoIP have become not only commonplace but also critical to ensure normal business operations. To alleviate the two core issues of downtime and saturation in such deployments, Elfiq’s SitePathMTPX feature provides a creative, robust, simple and non-intrusive answer to bringing performance and resilience to any organization in a very costeffective manner.

Produced by Elfiq Networks
Elfiq Networks is a technology leader and innovator in the field of WAN link management and balancing. With successful installations in over 50 countries, Elfiq’s Link Balancer products help organizations of any type and size perform more competitively every day with the ability to use multiple Internet and private links easily and securely. For more information on Elfiq Networks’ products and technologies, please contact: Elfiq Networks 1155 University, #712 Montreal, Quebec, H3B 3A7 Canada Telephone: 888-GO-ELFIQ/514-667-0611 Internet: www.elfiq.com Email: info@elfiq.com

May 2009 © Copyright 2009, Elfiq Networks (Elfiq Inc.). The contents of this document are protected by copyright. Any modification of this document, in any shape or form, is prohibited. Any redistribution, publication or derivation of the contents of this document without written authorization from Elfiq is also prohibited. All rights reserved.

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