The wide area network (WAN) optimization market is expected to grow almost 60% over the next five years, with sales predicted to reach $1.65 billion in 2016, from $1.05 billion in 2011. WAN optimization controllers (WOC), as they’re called, not only speed up network traffic and improve the performance of applications, they also help enterprises avoid costly upgrades to bandwidth capacity.
“[Customers] can’t continue to chase this ‘we need more bandwidth’ [mantra] because, fundamentally, the growth in demand for bandwidth far outstrips the reasonable cost of supplying more bandwidth,” says Mark Urban, senior director of product marketing at Blue Coat Systems, one of three companies in Gartner’s leaders quadrant of WOC providers.
Gartner, in a report on the WOC market published Jan. 24, stated that WOC investments can improve the response time of business-critical applications and “can also help to maximize return on investment in WAN bandwidth.”
WAN optimization controllers work to reduce latency on network traffic, primarily in the connection between data centers and branch offices or, in the case of retailers, to the many stores in a chain, says Alan Weckel, senior director at Dell'Oro Group, the networking research firm that came up with the $1.65 billion forecast for network WOC spending in 2016. Another smaller part of the WOC market is data center-to-data center connections, sometimes between different countries.
Wider use of videoconferencing is one of the drivers for WOC demand, says Weckel. It used to be that if the home office wanted to send a sales training video to each of its stores, it would send that across the WAN overnight and the video would be available for playback the next day. But now, if a retailer wants to do a live video call with stores, that puts more demands on the network.
“It’s very much new technology, new algorithms to think about how to handle that, how to handle the quality of service to that link,” he says.
Riverbed Technology joined Blue Coat in the leaders quadrant of the Gartner Magic Quadrant report on the WOC market. Like other WOC vendors, Riverbed sees demand from enterprises that undergo data center consolidation by adopting virtualization, which requires a rearchitecting of the network. The company also recently partnered with Akamai to reduce latency in the delivery of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications across WANs.