There is a debate over how much WAN optimization solutions need to rely on hardware versus software-only approaches, and how much of this technology can run on in the cloud versus being deployed on premise.
The folks at Blue Coat Systems would generally agree that the most important thing is software. But where that software runs might now be the primary issue.
According to Mark Urban, Blue Coat senior director of product marketing, Blue Coat has become a leading vendor in the WAN optimization space because first, it optimized HTTP traffic, and secondly, it has a unique object cache specifically designed to deal with Web application content such as video. Given that the vast amount of acceleration that most customers want to deal with has to do with Web applications, Urban says Blue Coat has been gaining ground.
As important as WAN optimization is, however, Bojan Simic, president of the market research firm Trac Research, has issued a report that notes that WAN optimization by itself isn't all that useful unless the organization has visibility into the performance of applications on its network. Then an investment in WAN optimization makes sense because organizations will know which applications to apply WAN optimization to first.
The challenge with WAN optimization, of course, has been the expense and complexity associated with deploying the technology. But as the costs drop, in no small measure due to the battle royale among Blue Coat, Riverbed Technology, Certeon, Cisco, Juniper Networks and Aryaka, the complexity of WAN optimization is dropping. At the same time, the number of latency-sensitive applications on the network grows with each passing day. So it's a matter of time before everybody deploys WAN optimization software in one form or another.