All the Animals That Love Touchscreens – Atlas Obscura

All the Animals That Love Touchscreens – Atlas Obscura

AS AN AVICULTURIST AT THE Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, Sara Mandel is always looking for ways to make her penguins’ lives more interesting. She and her fellow staffers blow bubbles for their charges. They’ve thrown them penguin parties, complete with confetti and a disco ball.

So one day in 2013, when Mandel happened to have her iPad at work, she asked her boss whether it might be ok to show it to the penguins. She had already downloaded a game, “Game for Cats“—in which mice, lasers and butterflies scurry across the screen, and react to touch—for her pets at home. “I bet they’ll ignore it,” her boss said, but he told her to go ahead and give it a try anyway.

So she booted it up. One penguin, a one-year-old named Newsom, “immediately put his bill on it,” remembers Mandel. “It made a sound. And all of a sudden he was in hunting mode. He just kept doing it over and over again.”

Sitting in one place and tapping on a screen may seem like a fundamentally human pursuit. But over the past few years, more and more animals have begun to use computers—for scientific studies, for rehabilitation efforts, or, like Newsom the penguin, just to have something to do. And a whole lot of those species, from pigeons to wolves to black bears to tortoises, seem to actively enjoy it.

“Our animals appear to really like the work,” says Lina Oberliessen, a researcher at the Wolf Science Center in Ernstbrunn, Austria. “Some of them are kind of workaholics.” The WSC’s stated mission is “to investigate the common characteristics shared by wolf, dog, and man,” which they accomplish through behavioral and cognitive research. Oberliessen, for instance, is studying whether or not wolves have a sense of fairness by asking them to choose how food rewards are distributed between themselves and other wolves.

To make studies like this easier, the wolves and dogs that live at the Center are trained early on, with food rewards and clicker reinforcement, to be comfortable using touchscreens. “They learn that they have to touch it, and that it’s good,” says Oberliessen. Depending on the study, they’re then taught to associate particular symbols with corresponding outcomes—say, one versus two treats being dispensed—and to choose between them by bumping the screen with their noses. (Some particularly excitable wolves also use their paws.)

This system makes things much simpler for the researchers, who take advantage of the flexibility the screen offers to design a variety of tests. “It’s really simple—if the animal knows how to use a screen, you can modify the symbols and change the tasks,” she says. It also makes for eager study subjects, some of whom have truly internalized their training.

“Some animals love the touchscreen so much that it seems they don’t really care what happens,” says Oberliessen. “Sometimes they don’t even take the reward.” They wait eagerly for their turns with the machines, and if a certain wolf or dog isn’t scheduled to use one on a particular day, “they seem disappointed,” she says. “They look like [they’re asking], ‘I’m not being tested? Why!?’”

And when faced with the wolf-touchscreen equivalent of the spinning pinwheel of death, she says, they react just like humans: “If they do it wrong and the screen turns white again, they get frustrated. They press again right away, and don’t wait until the next symbol comes.”

“It’s really cute,” she adds.

Other researchers have similar stories. Dr. Jennifer Vonk, a cognitive scientist who, over the course of various projects, has trained black bears, orangutans, and silverback gorillas to use touchscreens, posits that her study subjects enjoy the intellectual stimulation the computers provide (although the food rewards, and the opportunity to interact with humans, certainly don’t hurt). “They voluntarily participate in an environment where there are other things to do,” she writes in an email. “The bears would run indoors from the outdoor habitat when they saw us coming. The orangutans used to spit and poke at me until it was their turn to ‘play.’”

It’s not just mammals, either. In 2014, a team of researchers from the University of Lincoln and the University of Vienna trained tortoises to use a touchscreen in order to test their spatial awareness. Not only did the tortoises quickly figure out what they were being asked to do—faster than dogs given the same task—there’s no reason to think they weren’t having a good time, writes Dr. Anna Wilkinson, the study’s lead author, in an email.

“They readily worked on it, which suggests that they did not dislike it,” she writes. (“One way to tell if a tortoise is comfortable in a situation is to examine its neck length,” she adds. “As you can see from the video [below], Esme looks comfortable in there.”)

Onboarding these new users isn’t always easy. Sarah Ritvo, a doctoral student at York University who specializes in animal-computer interaction, told a story about a colleague who ran into a problem while using touchscreens to test whether orangutans prefer pictures of their own species to those of other apes. “There was a big male orangutan, and he didn’t want to physically touch pictures of other male orangutans—it was basically a dominance thing,” she says. “He started picking up a stick and touching the screen instead.” The hack caught on: “All of a sudden, all the other orangutans refused to touch the touchscreen,” she says. “We ended up having to buy everyone wooden dowels.”

Such investments are generally worth it. For scientists, it’s a win-win when animals dig computers. It makes a day’s work easier, both for them and for their research subjects. For others like Mandel, who are focused on making the lives of captive animals better, the fun itself is the point. After Newsom took so strongly to Mandel’s iPad, a volunteer donated an old tablet to the aquarium. It’s now a regular part of the penguins’ enrichment rotation, along with more traditional playthings such as soap bubbles or floating toys. “When I bring it out, they get really excited,” says Mandel.

By this point, Newsom the penguin, who is now four years old, has largely outgrown the screen. But the younger penguins, who might otherwise be a bit bored during breeding season, tend to really take to it. “Every summer we get new penguins, and every summer they have to figure out what life is like for a penguin,” says Mandel. “For some reason, they’re all interested in the iPad.”

Zoos, aquariums, and rescue centers across the world have picked up on the trend. Game for Cats is popular—besides its permanent place at the penguin exhibit, it has helped rehab an injured pigeon, and made an appearance at a big cat sanctuary in North Carolina. Orangutans at the Melbourne Zoo are playing XBox Kinect. One researcher working with a great ape sanctuary in Des Moines has even designed what he calls the “RoboBonobo”—a squirt-gun-wielding robot ape that the primates on display can control with an iPad, in order to squirt the less hairy primates watching them.

Some experts think games are only the tip of the iceberg. Orangutans at the Miami Zoo are already using tablets to give their keepers dinner suggestions—someday, animals might use touchscreens to control many things about their own environments, from temperature to light levels to whether or not they are visible to guests. “Here’s an interface that’s programmable, and it can be big or small, it can provides light, sound, smells, even tactile information,” says Ritvo. “It’s such a spectacular way to broaden their worlds.”

In the meantime, there are ways in which we can learn from them, too: “I would be very surprised to see an orangutan sitting in front of a screen all day,” says Ritvo. “They prefer to wrestle and play.”


A Video That Finally Explains the 4th Dimension in a Way We Can Understand – Core77

A Video That Finally Explains the 4th Dimension in a Way We Can Understand – Core77

Geometry was my best math subject, and it served me well during my CAD jockey years. But one thing I could never wrap my head around was the notion of a 4th dimension. People smarter than me would try explaining it to me at a bar, and while I could comprehend the individual words coming out of their mouths, I could never put the concept together in my head.

Finally, after seeing this video by the folks behind a game called Miegakure, I can start to wrap my head around it:

Miegakure is an interactive puzzle game that lets you mess around with different shapes while toggling back and forth between the 3D and 4D world.

The fourth dimension in this game is not time, it works just like the first three: it is a mathematical generalization. [The game] plays like a regular 3D platformer, but at the press of a button one of the dimensions is exchanged with the fourth dimension, allowing for four-dimensional movement.

Your ability to move in the fourth dimensions in addition to the usual three allows you to perform miraculous feats like seeing inside closed buildings, walking through walls, stealing objects from closed containers, binding two separate rings without breaking them, etc…

These actual consequences of the mathematical formulation of 4D space have been thought about for more than a century (in the 1884 novella Flatland for example) but it is the first time anyone can actually perform them, thanks to the video game medium.

Here’s what the game looks like:

This Coffee Shop Chooses Not to Have Wi-Fi – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

This Coffee Shop Chooses Not to Have Wi-Fi – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

The Wi-Fi password? Oh, I’m sorry, sir. We no longer have Wi-Fi. Our owners didn’t like how accessible internet made customers fixate so much on their laptops and phones. Instead, they wanted to foster an environment that encouraged customers to interact with each other. That’s what makes our coffee shop different! This is a place to disconnect and embrace a simpler time where the only “Snapchat” is an enjoyable conversation with a stranger about a photograph on the wall.

Sadly all of our framed photos were recently smashed by various angry customers, so I recommend grabbing one of these tiny icebreaker signs we have. Just place one in front of you on your table and when another customer sits near you, you two will have something to talk about right away. Each sign has a different engaging question like, WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WOKE UP TOMORROW AND YOU WERE INVISIBLE? or IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, LIVING OR DEAD, WHICH WOULD YOU BE? or HOW WOULD YOUR LIFE BE DIFFERENT IF THIS COFFEE SHOP HAD WI-FI LIKE EVERY OTHER ONE ON EARTH DOES? A lot of people pick that last one.

Along with the signs we have an optional buddy system. If you’d like, I can pair you up with someone who ordered the same drink as you, that way you already have something in common to talk about! Let’s see, you ordered a vanilla latte. That gentleman reading a book over there also got a vanilla latte. Unfortunately, he’s now being escorted out of the shop by Lugo, one of our “Interaction Agents,” since reading is a solitary activity and thus strictly forbidden. Don’t worry, that man won’t be hurt. We’d never do that! He’ll just be told that if he brings a book again, he will then be hurt.

Hurting counts as engaging with someone too, remember.

Now would you like to wait until someone else orders a vanilla latte? It might be a little while. People seem to be afraid of our shop. Any coffee shop that isn’t a Starbucks and also forces random people to converse, even those with crippling social anxiety and those that have taken crippling vows of silence, seems to make potential customers wary.

It’s odd to me. Do people not want to find and get to know new people? “Meeting under duress or not, a new friend is a new friend.” That’s the motto we have right there on our wall, but please don’t read it now or Lugo will have to throw you out. That’s what makes our coffee shop different!

Oh, you think you using your internet device would actually help you interact with people here? I guess in principle that might be true. You and a stranger could go from website to website, condemning and hissing at them as digital demons promoting anti-social tendencies like my bosses do on work retreats. Regardless, there’s no Wi-Fi to be had here!

You have your own Wi-Fi hotspot? I’m sorry to say that won’t work. See this coffee shop lies inside of a Faraday cage, an enclosure used to block and eliminate electromagnetic waves. Those conductive metal bars surrounding the building aren’t just an aesthetic choice, they keep us inside of a bubble that technology forgot and only the Amish remember. If you have any questions about the Faraday cage, grab the “What’s the deal with this Faraday cage thing?” sign and work it out with someone during a meaningful conversation.

Ultimately, we just want everybody to take a few moments out of their day to disconnect from the internet and reconnect with humanity. Is there truly anything wrong with that?

Anyway, here’s your vanilla latte. Just open your mouth and I’ll pour it in. Yeah, we don’t have Wi-Fi or cups. That’s what makes our coffee shop different! Not different in a good way, but different nonetheless.

Baby Name Guide: Updated for 2017 – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Baby Name Guide: Updated for 2017 – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency


From the Gaelic name Domhnall, which meant, until recently, “ruler of the world.” It now means “orange-faced pussy grabber who lost the popular vote by three million.” The name “Donald” has traditionally been very popular, but now you’d be better off naming your baby “Adolf.” Notable Donalds include Trump, and his intellectual superior, Duck.


This name previously meant “God is Gracious.” It now means “God Seriously Can Not Believe What the Fuck is Going On in the White House.” Another interpretation of “Ivanka” is “being complicit in something really bad for America without actually understanding the definition of complicit.” Famous Ivankas include President Trump’s wife (oops, we mean daughter) and probably some cats in Russia.


A Hebrew baby name that previously meant “rose.” The modern-day meaning is “pretty-faced rich nitwit up to his neck in Russian shit.” Prominent Jareds include Trump’s son-in-law, that guy from Subway Sandwiches currently incarcerated for being a pervert, and Academy Award-winner Leto, who we’ll give a pass to because he looks like hot Jesus.


Derived from the Greek, this name means “black,” which now describes the soul of anyone currently married to a Melania. Parents considering this name should know that baby Melania will never hold your hand or show any kind of facial expression. She will also live by herself in a tower in New York City until you force her to move.


A Greek name that meant “oath of God,” but now has come to mean “let’s advance God’s Kingdom through teaching kids that Jesus rode dinosaurs.” Noteworthy women with this name include Betsy Ross, a seamstress known for sewing the first American flag, and Betsy DeVos, a white lady known for being heckled outside public schools. Note: All babies given this name should also have a gun to protect themselves from grizzly bears.


An Irish name that means “gift from God,” which is how most comedians refer to one particularly spicy Sean. A popular nickname for Sean is, “Melissa McCarthy.” If you name your baby Sean, expect your infant to often make false statements and display combative behavior. Famous Seans include Sean Spicer, who is most likely unemployed as of this reading, and Sean Penn who also has anger issues unless he’s in a rescue boat.


A Slavic name meaning “rule,” it’s 2017 update is “I rule United States because I have videotape of schmuck name Donald who love hooker pee-pee.” Hobbies of most Vladimirs include chugging vodka, riding horses shirtless, rigging democratic elections, and murdering friends and family. You will always feel close to a baby Vladimir. Mostly because he has wiretapped your phones.


A combination of the Irish “Kelly,” meaning “war”, and the English “Anne,” meaning “gracious,” this name now means “acting gracious when staring vacantly at a cable news camera and blabbing about starting wars with other countries based on nothing but a giant toddler’s ego and his complete inability to grasp global politics.” Variations include “Kelliann,” “KelleeAn,” and “Decaying Barbie.”

Paul Ryan

Paul is derived from a Roman name meaning “small” or “humble” and “Ryan” is Irish for “little king.” When the names are combined, they now mean, “complete tool with a Napoleon complex and missing balls.” Paul Ryan is certainly a fine name to bestow upon your newborn son, however, be advised that within minutes of giving birth, he will cancel your health coverage.


Ancient name meaning “Satan” or “the Devil.” It has also recently become synonymous with “Steve Bannon.” While it’s trendy in 2017, this name is not recommended unless your child is born with six fingers on each hand, a pointy tail, and an overwhelming desire to dismantle the government via an out of shape puppet who smells like black mold and tweets on the toilet.

Brutally Honest Freelance Writer Bios – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Brutally Honest Freelance Writer Bios – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Cara Lepidus earned her J.D. from Boston College before becoming a Big Law junior associate working 80 hours a week. After her first child was born, her firm’s generous “Work/Life Balance” policy allowed her to work 70 hours a week — while only cutting her salary in half. Forty pounds heavier, and unable keep both her bosses and her baby from near constant screaming, she turned to freelance writing, where she can’t hear screaming but does receive the occasional death threat via online comment section when internet strangers think Blanche, and not as she has claimed Sophia, is the best Golden Girl.

– – –
Derek Parker has eaten nothing but Cup-O-Noodle for forty-two days and counting. He begs you to click on this article. He won’t get the 50 bucks he needs for his kid’s doctor’s co-pay unless 1,000 of you share this piece.

– – –

Becky Stevenson, has a Ph.D in astrophysics from Cal State. By day, she is a Astronomy Educator at her local science museum teaching school-children that the universe is filled with billions of stars similar to the sun; that there is a high probability that some of those star are orbited by earth-like planets likely to develop intelligent life; and that many of these planets are much older than the earth. She is up every night from 3 AM to 6 AM nursing panic attacks while contemplating, “If there is intelligent life, then where the fuck are they?” Her writing is influenced by her desire to connect with intelligent life, or at least to relieve herself of the feeling that she is the only one that cares.

– – –
Justin Smith hates wearing pants.

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Bob McIntyre received a 1600 on his SATs. Apparently the SAT is no longer graded out of 1600 points and thus his habit of using the score as shorthand for his intelligence has been endangered. His millennial boss asked him what he did for self-care and he thought she was using a euphemism for masturbation. No longer sure of his place in corporate America, he now writes about bitcoin and robots.

– – –
Laura Steinberg graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University, a fact her children are wholly unaware of, not because she hasn’t told them, but because they fail to see her as a human person. Laura just completed seven loads of laundry, has had an infant latched to her breast for the past 45 minutes, and is 30 minutes late for her son’s lacrosse game. The women in her neighborhood drink wine at 3pm and occasionally ask her if she is “still doing that blogging or whatever.” She has been published in the New York Times, The Paris Review, and Forbes. She speaks Mandarin with her Chinese food deliveryman, who is the only adult she has seen today.

– – –

Robert Darling has a trust fund. Like a really big one. And his father didn’t stay mostly faithful to his mother in order to keep up appearances so that he could slave away at his great grandfather’s venture capital firm. Robert is a citizen of the world.

– – –
Samantha Dern does not have a perfect life, but every time she says the sentence, “I’m a writer” she smiles. The smile lasts until her hunger sends her to riffle through the cupboard she shares with her four roommates for some Cup-O-Noodles.

Federal Agencies Are Failing to Report a Range of Crime Statistics to the FBI’s National Database – Pacific Standard

Federal Agencies Are Failing to Report a Range of Crime Statistics to the FBI’s National Database – Pacific Standard

In violation of a longstanding legal mandate, scores of federal law enforcement agencies are failing to submit statistics to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s national hate crimes database, ProPublica has learned.

The lack of participation by federal law enforcement represents a significant and largely unknown flaw in the database, which is supposed to be the nation’s most comprehensive source of information on hate crimes. The database is maintained by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which uses it to tabulate the number of alleged hate crimes occurring around the nation each year.

The FBI has identified at least 120 federal agencies that aren’t uploading information to the database, according to Amy Blasher, a unit chief at the CJIS division, an arm of the bureau that is overseeing the modernization of its information systems.

The federal government operates a vast array of law enforcement agencies—ranging from Customs and Border Protection to the Drug Enforcement Administration to the Amtrak Police—employing more than 120,000 law enforcement officers with arrest powers. The FBI would not say which agencies have declined to participate in the program, but the bureau’s annual tally of hate crimes statistics does not include any offenses handled by federal law enforcement. Indeed, the problem is so widespread that the FBI itself isn’t submitting the hate crimes it investigates to its own database.

“We truly don’t understand what’s happening with crime in the United States without the federal component,” Blasher said in an interview.

At present, the bulk of the information in the database is supplied by state and local police departments. In 2015, the database tracked more than 5,580 alleged hate crime incidents, including 257 targeting Muslims, an upward surge of 67 percent from the previous year. (The bureau hasn’t released 2016 or 2017 statistics yet.)

But it’s long been clear that hundreds of local police departments don’t send data to the FBI, and so, given the added lack of participation by federal law enforcement, the true numbers for 2015 are likely to be significantly higher.

A federal law, the 1988 Uniform Federal Crime Reporting Act, requires all U.S. government law enforcement agencies to send a wide variety of crime data to the FBI. Two years later, after the passage of another law, the bureau began collecting data about “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” That was later expanded to include gender and gender identity.

The federal agencies that are not submitting data are violating the law, Blasher told us. She said she’s in contact with about 20 agencies and is hopeful that some will start participating, but added that there is no firm timeline for that to happen.

“Honestly, we don’t know how long it will take,” Blasher said of the effort to get federal agencies on board.

The issue goes extends far beyond hate crimes—federal agencies are failing to report a whole range of crime statistics, Blasher conceded. But hate crimes, and the lack of reliable data concerning them, have been of intense interest amid the country’s highly polarized and volatile political environment.

ProPublica contacted several federal agencies seeking an explanation. A spokesperson for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, which handles close to 50,000 offenses annually, said the service is adhering to Department of Defense rules regarding crime data and is using a digital crime tracking system linked to the FBI’s database. But the Army declined to say whether its statistics are actually being sent to the FBI, referring that question up the chain of command to the Department of Defense.

In 2014, an internal probe conducted by Department of Defense investigators found that the “DoD is not reporting criminal incident data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for inclusion in the annual Uniform Crime Reports.”

ProPublica contacted the Department of Defense for clarification, and shared with a department spokesman a copy of the 2014 reports acknowledging the failure to send data to the FBI.

“We have no additional information at this time,” said Christopher Sherwood, the spokesman.

Federal agencies are hardly the only ones to skip out on reporting hate crimes. An Associated Press investigation last year found at least 2,700 city police and county sheriff’s departments that repeatedly failed to report hate crimes to the FBI.

In the case of the FBI itself, Blasher said the issue is largely technological: Agents have long collected huge amounts of information about alleged hate crimes, but don’t have a digital system to easily input that information to the database, which is administered by staff at an FBI complex in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

Since Blasher began pushing to modernize the FBI’s data systems, the bureau has made some progress. It began compiling some limited hate crimes statistics for 2014 and 2015, though that information didn’t go into the national hate crimes database.

In Washington, lawmakers were surprised to learn about the failure by federal agencies to abide by the law.

“It”s fascinating and very disturbing,” said Representative Don Beyer (D-Virginia), who said he wanted to speak about the matter with the FBI’s government affairs team. He wants to see federal agencies “reporting hate crimes as soon as possible.”

Beyer and other lawmakers have been working in recent years to improve the numbers of local police agencies participating in voluntary hate crime reporting efforts. Bills pending in Congress would give out grants to police forces to upgrade their computer systems; in exchange, the departments would begin uploading hate crime data to the FBI.

Beyer, who is sponsoring the House bill, titled the National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act, said he would consider drafting new legislation to improve hate crimes reporting by federal agencies, or try to build such a provision into the appropriations bill.

“The federal government needs to lead by example. It’s not easy to ask local and state governments to submit their data if these 120 federal agencies aren’t even submitting hate crimes data to the database,” Beyer said.

In the Senate, Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota said the federal agencies need to do better. “I’ve long urged the FBI and the Department of Justice to improve the tracking and reporting of hate crimes by state and local law enforcement agencies,” Franken told ProPublica. “But in order to make sure we understand the full scope of the problem, the federal government must also do its part to ensure that we have accurate and trustworthy data.”

Virginia’s Barbara Comstock, a House Republican who authored a resolution in April urging the “Department of Justice (DOJ) and other federal agencies to work to improve the reporting of hate crimes,” did not respond to requests for comment.

Did SD-WAN kill WAN optimization? | CIO Dive

Did SD-WAN kill WAN optimization? | CIO Dive

It is in vogue for industry pundits and various IT manufacturers and solution providers to proclaim that WAN optimization is dead, and dead at the hands of SD-WAN, or software-defined wide area networking.

The market seems to reflect this. It’s hot with at least 33 SD-WAN manufacturers and analysts predicting hyper growth. Riverbed first introduced modern WAN optimization 13 years ago in 2004, which is eons in the world of information technology. So naturally it’s time to move on to the next big thing, right?

Let’s start by examining why WAN optimization came to be in the first place. Steve McCanne, a legend in the world of internet protocol science, recognized that there were fundamental challenges inherent in the architecture of the data network. So, he and Jerry Kennelly, CEO of Riverbed, set out to address those challenges, co-founding Riverbed Technology.

WAN optimization addressed three primary issues that bubbled up to the surface when it came to end users accessing data via applications over distance on the network.

The network is governed at the base level by the speed of light. That is, as they would say in Boston, “wicked fast,” but not fast enough as milliseconds of delay (latency) grow as distance between users and data increases.

Because the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) — the framework for how information is delivered over the network — uses packets with limited capacity to transmit data over the network, multiple packets are required to move information and files for applications.

When you have small distance-based delays (latency) on the network, and you have multiple packets that need to be delivered, this creates application performance problems. Applications themselves have various inefficiencies and can require multiple back and forth acknowledgements (chattiness) which exacerbates application delay. Thus, network delay, TCP/IP inefficiencies, and application inefficiencies are the three pillars of application performance problems.

While the cost of bandwidth has come down dramatically, there are still capacity constraints and more importantly, none of these elements have changed in the last 13 years in any measurable way:

  • The speed of light is still 186,000 miles per second
  • The internet protocol still uses the same inefficient packet-based architecture
  • Many key applications are still inefficient and poorly written

With these elements, it doesn’t matter how much bandwidth you have if there is impactful latency. WAN optimization addresses all of these challenges and constraints.

Beyond theory, there are real-world use cases. Consider one company that had installed WAN optimization around 2010. They decommissioned the solution in lieu of refreshing it in 2015, under a new regime, because it wasn’t viewed as impactful.

This was done for cost savings without considering or measuring the impact to their application performance. They were looking to implement application performance monitoring to understand why their applications were slow. But, they actually didn’t need performance monitoring tools to know why their application performance had degraded. Instead they are now re-installing WAN optimization to improve application performance.

Greenfield WAN optimization

The industry is also seeing net new greenfield WAN optimization installations, such as those deploying 100 or more sites of WAN optimization to drive increased capacity out of their existing network. This is to improve application performance, support cloud-based applications and facilitate additional new applications on the network.

This case is part of a new model, however, as it combines WAN optimization with SD-WAN, cloud and SaaS optimization, and network and application performance monitoring.

So what are the key actions and considerations to ensure value is being derived from WAN optimization?

  • Maintain current levels of code to ensure newer protocols are being optimized and that new encryption methods are being handled — commission a health check for existing WAN Optimization environments.
  • Implement a network and application visibility solution to validate performance improvement and identify areas and sites to focus on. This also allows IT and lines of business to gain better alignment, enabling IT to become viewed as an enabling partner rather than a cost center.
  • Review your data center backup and replication environment. This can be an easy win with WAN optimization, increasing circuit throughput 4-6X and substantially reducing backup and replication times. All of these elements lead to a rapid return on investment and help IT Executives meet the needs of the business.
  • Address cloud and SaaS environments with optimization to drive holistic performance improvement. These are areas with high-level executive exposure and ensuring their successful adoption can be a major win for the IT group.
  • Address mobile users with optimization as road warriors and home office workers tend to suffer the most on key business applications.
  • Maintain current support on your systems, preferably with a specialist in the space to ensure timely response to issues and an up to date environment.

The rise of a new world order

A new world model is arising where SD-WAN is the change agent and optimization and visibility are critical success factors as part of the overall solution.

But what are the drivers behind SD-WAN? And how can you ensure a successful SD-WAN implementation?

There are four general buckets in which we can place SD-WAN drivers and considerations, easily remembered as CAPS: cost, agility, performance and security.

  • Cost: SD-WAN promises to deliver a much better cost model against several vectors. It uses lower cost internet circuits as opposed to expensive business-class circuits in either a hybrid or exclusive manner. With the ability to route traffic based on application type and circuit health, SD-WAN opens this to reality. SD-WAN solutions on the market now are also generally far less expensive compared to legacy routing solutions.
  • Agility: SD-WAN, with a much more user-friendly deployment and management model, and various connectivity options, provides organizations with far more flexibility and agility in how they support the business both in current state and in growth modes.
  • Performance: SD-WAN, with the ability to add additional low cost capacity and more affordable multiple circuits per site can certainly improve performance. However, it’s imperative to augment the SD-WAN environment with WAN optimization for the reasons outlined earlier.
  • Security: Some SD-WAN solutions provide more sophisticated security capabilities than others and this should be considered.

Now let’s look at how you ensure a successful SD-WAN implementation to maximize the potential benefits.

  • Due diligence: The market is crowded with SD-WAN. Understanding this landscape and making an informed decision based on your specific objectives is crucial.
  • Consider decoupling (for added diversity): Carriers all offer SD-WAN solutions to go with their circuits. However, this eliminates diversity, which is one key benefit of SD-WAN. Diversity provides for resiliency in the case of a failure with a single provider. And, many times the provider is now also giving you their own performance measures in support of their SLA’s to the business. This is a case of the fox guarding the henhouse.
  • WAN optimization: WAN optimization is critical for SD-WAN because you are now using potentially lower quality circuits.The application performance-inhibiting factors outlined above are still in play, and in many cases your data is getting farther from your end users.
  • Visibility: This is critical in order to measure your network and application performance, respond quickly to issues and ensure your SLA’s are being met. Some SD-WAN solutions provide this as part of their offering.
  • Sponsorship: As with any new undertaking, commitment from above and sponsorship is key to moving this into a fully-adopted state. This includes cultural and financial support.
  • Ongoing maintenance and education: Keeping the environment up to date and orderly will ensure that you continue to derive maximum benefit from the investment.

So, did SD-WAN kill WAN optimization? Perhaps the better question is, does SD-WAN replace the need for WAN optimization?

In the words of Mark Twain, “the report of my death has been grossly exaggerated” and the same can be perceived in context of the exposure SD-WAN is receiving today compared to WAN optimization.

Successful organizations will leverage the power of 1 + 1 = 3, where the usage of both technologies combined will be far greater than the performance benefits each could achieve individually.