Gartner: WAN Optimization Adapts To New Demands

In its just-released Magic Quadrant for WAN Optimization Controllers (WOCS), Gartner looks at the current state of the WAN optimization market. This Gartner magic quadrant shows a picture of a mature market that is adapting to customer demands, with an increased focus on cloud and data center-to-data center deployments, the consolidation of branch office hardware and increased support for mobile users.

January 5, 2011

3 Min Read
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In its just-released Magic Quadrant for WAN Optimization Controllers (WOCS), Gartner looks at the current state of the WAN optimization market. This Gartner magic quadrant shows a picture of a mature market that is adapting to customer demands, with an increased focus on cloud and data center-to-data center deployments, the consolidation of branch office hardware and increased support for mobile users.

We also found these trends in our InformationWeek Analytics 2010 WAN Optimization research [registration required]. Today, more data is being transported over the WAN among  remote offices as well as remote workers. WAN optimization makes the most of existing bandwidth by using compression and data deduplication. WAN optimizers also reduce performance problems inherent in chatty network and application protocols.

WAN optimization products are now being evaluated less from the perspective of optimizing file transfers between branch offices and the data center. Organizations that undertake IT initiatives such as cloud computing, virtual desktop integration (VDI) and business continuity need their WAN optimizers to scale in terms of sheer bits per second and simultaneous sessions, while being able to support a far greater range of applications. Gartner has identified three leaders in data center WAN optimization: Silver Peak, Riverbed and F5.

Products for mobile optimization are gaining attention, as well, due to changing demands from the increasingly mobile workforce. Today, users could be in a coffee shop or in a remote office and they still expect snappy application performance. Smartphones and tablets used by mobile workers are bringing in a new set of problems that IT needs to address.

A number of mobile WAN optimization products are available today, including Circadence (which supports WindowsCE, WindowsMobile and Android devices); Cisco, with its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) Mobile software client; and Riverbed, with its Steelhead Mobile client. As mobile devices become more powerful and are more broadly used, we should expect to see more support from WAN optimization vendors.Gartner identified three ways WAN optimization is being bundled with other applications in order to address the broader needs of the branch office. Early efforts by Cisco and Riverbed allowed organizations to reduce the number of appliances in remote offices offering common services such as DHCP, DNS, Active Directory and print serving to just one. Cisco and Juniper are bundling WAN optimization capabilities inside of their routers, as well, but these router-optimizers tend to be "lightweight versions, without extensive deduplication or higher-layer protocol acceleration," writes Gartner.

The Gartner report also identifies consolidation happening between enterprise content delivery networks (ECDNs) and WAN optimizers. ECDNs offer the ability to deliver live and on-demand streaming of media content, by splitting unicast streams and by pre-positioning content in the cache. This increases the scalability of media servers and helps to improve the response times for semi-static content, such as business procedures and software upgrades.

As for functionality, security is hot. There is an increasing focus on security, including the acceleration of encrypted protocols such as Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) and the security of data stored on WAN optimizers. At the same time, as basic acceleration capabilities mature, Gartner says there is a resurgence of interest in visibility and control, both as a means to demonstrate WAN optimizer effectiveness and as a bandwidth/response-time planning tool. Providing application and user performance measurement and SLA reporting are key emerging requirements for WAN optimizers.

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