The market for WAN optimization technology seems to have no limits as enterprises of all stripes try to squeeze every last bit out of existing infrastructures. But is this an area that could come to a rapid end?
The latest research from Infonetics shows WAN optimization hardware, software and services jumping 61 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period a year ago. Even though the market is small, at only $106 million, and showed some cooling compared to the end of 2006, the research firm predicts double-digit growth for the rest of the decade, entering 2011 at $652 million.
Those kinds of numbers are surely what led Microsoft to buy its way into the market with the recent acquisition of Packeteer. But as SearchNetworking.com points out, the longer-term future for many optimization players may be dim. It seems that both Vista and Longhorn already sport a number of WAN optimization features: redesigned TCP/IP stacks, QoS capabilities, low-bit-rate application presentation layers -- the kinds of things normally found on acceleration devices and services that you buy from someone else.
Of course, Redmond has a way of making hash out of promising networking technologies -- there's no guarantee that things like server domain isolation (SDI) and various security features won't interfere with WAN performance -- so there's every reason to believe that third parties will be able to produce enterprise-class optimization tools for some time. But there's also a chance that built-in optimization could become as common on Microsoft platforms as Media Player.
At the moment, however, optimization is seeing a fair number of start-ups like Silver Peak Systems. The company recently updated the NX acceleration appliance, which stresses the "wide" in WAN by targeting links of 30 Mbps or more. New software for the NX provides enhanced pattern recognition for extremely large data sets reaching into the 100 GB range.
Other more established firms like Riverbed, Juniper and Exinda offer a plethora of appliances and services designed for both general networking and specialized environments. There is even a new sub-segment of the market that specializes in optimization configuration and measurement services. One of the newest is Shunra, a WAN simulation provider that now offers a turnkey optimization and app acceleration selection service that provides ROI metrics and benchmarks to separate the wheat from the chaff.
It's not really possible to say anything bad about optimization. Anything that gets data moving more quickly and with fewer errors should be okay in anyone's book. But in the zeal to push network expansion projects as far into the future as possible, it's important to make sure that the solution you choose is right for your network, and works as advertised.