WAN Optimization Outlook

The WAN Optimization market has been hot lately, as corporate networks support more dispersed audiences and cloud computing applications proliferate. Here's a look at major players and recent headlines.

John Rath

February 1, 2010

5 Min Read
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The WAN Optimization market has been hot lately, as corporate networks support more dispersed audiences and cloud computing applications proliferate.  Whether you call it wide area network optimization, acceleration, or application services, the technology is designed to manage and maximize the flow of data across a wide area network (WAN).  Techniques used by WAN optimization include traffic shaping, data deduplication, caching, compression and others.

The somewhat crowded vendor market includes Cisco, Juniper, Blue Coat Systems, Certeon and F5 Networks, among many others. Last December Gartner recognized Riverbed as the market share leader for the advanced platform WAN optimization controller market.

The overall market also shrunk a little last year as several acquisitions were announced. Network World noted the 2009 M&A activity detailing deals such as Compuware buying Gomez, CA acquiring NetQoS, Alcatel-Lucent buying Velocix, Radware picking up Nortel's application delivery gear, Blue Coat buying S7 Software Solutions and Riverbed buying Mazu Networks.

The ABC's of Riverbed
The WAN optimization term is burdened with both misunderstanding and a legacy notion that it only applies to bandwidth-challenged organizations. The Riverbed blog last week posted a nice summary of WAN optimization  and its key value proposition. The post simplifies it to ABCD - Application acceleration, Bandwidth Optimization, Consolidation/Cloud computing, and Disaster recovery.

Riverbed (RVBD) went public in 2006 and never looked back. They had a stellar 2009, ending with a Gartner proclamation that based on third quarter revenue Riverbed led the market and continued with product innovation for cloud environments. A June 2009 Gartner magic quadrant report listed Riverbed in the leaders quadrant.  They will release fourth quarter and fiscal year 2009 financial results Tuesday, February 2nd.  

Riverbed stock was trading for around $10 a share this time last year, and recently is trading above $22 a share.  Last Monday it announced enhancements to Cascade, its advanced network and application performance analysis and visibility solution.  Cascade 8.4 provides "enhanced reporting and integration with Riverbed WAN optimization that enable organizations to better assess, adapt and accelerate network performance."

Jon Oltsik, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group explains that "today, WAN optimization has evolved from being seen as a tactical implementation to providing a strategic view of the network."  He continues by describing how Riverbed's Cascade product delivers higher level business analytics, visibility and reporting. 

Cascade 8.4 provides metrics on application throughput, user connection throughput and connection duration, providing a measurement of the true experience of the end user.   Also new to version 8.4 is a Cascade Sensor-VE, a virtual remote sensor that runs on the Riverbed Services Platform (RSP), a virtualized partition of the established Steelhead appliance.

"With the enhancements we're providing in Cascade 8.4, organizations can continuously assess their network with a proactive approach to resolving application issues," said Apurva Dave, vice president of product marketing at Riverbed.  Cascade 8.4 and Cascade Sensor-VE are currently available.

WAN Optimization Throwdown
Larry Chaffin posted last week on Network World that we would never see a vendor test at Interop that would compare Cisco, Blue Coat, Riverbed and Juniper. In 2008 he put out the challenge and Riverbed was the only one to respond.  Riverbed continues to boast confidence in their product line and has called out Cisco on numerous occasions.

On the Inside Cisco IT blog a post details how they have been implementing Cisco Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) for internal IT at Cisco. The implementation update noted that they deployed WAAS to 200 remote offices worldwide and when fully deployed over the next six months will have implemented WAAS in approximately 300 offices and eight data centers world wide. The Riverbed blog was quick to post replies titled "Will Cisco ever catch up to Riverbed?" and "Is Cisco still trying to eat their own dogfood?".

Heading to the clouds
Despite Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison not getting this Cloud Computing thing, there is no doubt 2009 recorded a flurry of cloud news. WAN optimization is a critical element of many clouds and their supporting infrastructures. VMblog.com points out that the need for WAN optimization will become abundantly clear in 2010 as companies look to centralize services to the cloud and increase application performance and enterprise productivity.  he article is written by Shawn Cooney, founder of Certeon,  a Massachusetts based company providing application acceleration appliances and software.

Furthering the link between WAN optimization and cloud computing, Gregory Ness reports on Lew's Law and the fortune of the network equipment industry at Seeking Alpha. The article explains Sun Microsystem's Cloud CTO Lew Tucker's prediction that IT expenses would increasingly track to the cost of electricity.

Gregory extends the law to network equipment leaders such as Cisco (CSCO), Juniper (JNPR), F5 Networks (FFIV) and Riverbed (RVBD) stating that the automation of the network will shape fortunes of these companies.  He states "those who see this trend coming and align their offerings with these new demands will obtain strategic advantage over the leagues of tired offerings continuing to monetize complexity and manual labor as CIOs face increasing pressures from alternative cloud computing models and the spread of virtualization."

Also highlighting the benefits of WAN optimization in the cloud, a IT Business Edge article records an interview with Adam Davison, vice president of corporate sales and marketing at Expand Networks. Earlier this month Global Crossing announced the addition of Juniper Networks equipment to  WXC series application acceleration platforms for WAN optimization.

2010 is poised to be a break-out year, whether it is through additional acquisitions within the industry, or greater speed of adoption in corporate IT and the clouds.

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