As it becomes more apparent with each passing day that the network is now the I/O bus, a question starts to emerge as to whether the network is becoming too critical to leave in the hands of the network management team.
With all due apologies to network managers everywhere, the question needs to be asked because everything from the performance of virtual machines to the latest Web 2.0 application in the cloud are all latency-sensitive frameworks for delivering applications. A critical technology that has emerged in the last several years to enable the timely delivery of these applications are application acceleration appliances, which are typically used to drive WAN optimization.
But application acceleration appliances are not as widely deployed as they might be, a lot of which has to do with the complexity of trying to optimize networks to give preference to specific types of protocols. The simple fact of the matter is that most network managers don't really deal with Layer 7 application protocols. In fact, in many cases where there is an application acceleration appliance, it was bought and paid for by the managers of the applications rather than the network department.
As latency-sensitive applications proliferate, managed service providers are seeing an opportunity to step in and provide what amounts to a Fast Lane on the information superhighway. This accounts for the alliance between Riverbed Technology and Verizon this week under which Verizon will offer WAN optimization services powered by Riverbed appliances. What's amazing about that is that Verizon already offers two other WAN optimization services based on technologies from other vendors.
According to Steve Capozzi, a senior product marketing manager at Verizon, there's the equivalent of a perfect storm coming on the network as applications become more distributed, the number of applications that need to run on the network increases, and the advent of virtualization results in more applications than ever trying to share access to the network over the same pipe. Even in the economic downturn, Capozzi said that Verizon's managed services business was growing double-digits. With the economic recovery in sight, coupled with the coming perfect technology storm, demand for WAN optimization services should grow even more, he said.
None of this means that the network manager is about to be eliminated by managed services providers. But increasingly, it's starting to look like more complicated network services are being put into the hands of sophisticated network specialists. That may change if managing latency-sensitive applications gets dramatically easier, but at the moment there are no real signs of that happening before the next perfect networking storm gets here.