The WAN optimization market is still miniscule by most IT industry standards, but it is emerging as one of the hottest growth areas of the decade. The latest research from Infonetics shows that WO technologies saw a 31 percent increase in sales worldwide from the first to the second quarter of 2007, topping out at $156 million. Year-on-year sales jumped 85 percent.
It's easy to see why enterprises are willing to invest in WAN optimization in an age of tightening budgets. The Aberdeen Group reports that the average improvement in response times after optimization is 1,158 percent. In other words, firms that have deployed leading WO solutions are seeing an 11-fold increase in performance for their critical business applications at remote offices.
As enterprises continue to deploy Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and IP Virtual Private Networks (IP VPNs) to handle increasing amounts of data, packet loss is becoming one of the chief inhibitors to effective WAN management. Even average loss rates of 0.5 percent can cause major delays. Firms like Silver Peak Systems are aiming at loss reduction through techniques like packet striping and packet order correcting.
Market leaders Juniper Networks and Riverbed Technologies are running neck and neck when it comes to enhancing security and improving data capacity on the WAN. Version 5.5 of Juniper's WXOS software for the WX and WXC appliances offers a 25x boost in SSL encrypted applications. Riverbed's RIOS 4.1 system for the Steelhead appliance specifically targets large-scale file transfers for an additional 4x improvement for operations such as SAN-to-SAN backup.
The need for improved disaster recovery also seems to be driving the demand for more efficient WANs. F5 Networks is pitching its WANJet appliance with its SRDF replication software as a means to return service quickly in the event of a failure, while NetEx, a spinoff from StorageTek, relies on its HyperIP protocol to overcome typical TCP/IP latency.
The beauty of most optimization systems is that they are fairly inexpensive, easy to install and operate and still deliver vastly improved wide-area networking capability. The fact that they can also be a lifesaver in extreme circumstances is an added bonus.