Given all the focus on cost savings over the last two years or more, it's a wonder that there hasn't been more focus put on application acceleration appliances.
While these appliances have been adopted by a fair number of IT organizations, it seems like quite a few more could still benefit from the multi-faceted cost savings enabled by these devices.
The first place application acceleration appliances start to have an immediate impact is by eliminating the need for separate branch servers in many cases. Everybody is always talking about the need to consolidate servers. But when you consolidate servers, end users can experience degradation in application performance. So the best way around the problem is to install an application acceleration appliance that prioritizes bandwidth allocation to mission-critical applications being accessed over a wide area network.
There are also some other key benefits to application acceleration appliances. First, they can help delay the need to upgrade network infrastructure, and secondarily, they now play a key role in disaster recovery plans because they help users to access a remote server should a local server crash. Thirdly, as virtual machines begin to migrate across the network, devices that can prioritize access to those virtual machines across a wide area network are going to become a lot more important. And finally, they can save huge amounts of money by slowing user access to frivolous Web applications, such as watching videos from ESPN, that take up large amounts of bandwidth on the corporate network.
One theory about why more IT organizations don't invest in application acceleration appliances has to do with the nature of competition in the networking space. Companies such as Cisco and Juniper sell application acceleration appliances in competition with smaller companies such as Riverbed Technology and Blue Coat Systems. But a salesperson from a networking hardware vendor would much rather see a customer upgrade their network routers and switches than opt for a less expensive application acceleration appliance. The upshot of this is that salespeople from networking vendors don't tend to highlight the capabilities of their application acceleration appliances.
Finally, divisions within the IT department tend to make the value of application acceleration less apparent. The people that can benefit most from application acceleration appliances are the people responsible for the applications, virtualization and disaster recovery. None of them tend to be networking experts, so in many cases the potential value of application acceleration is unknown to them. All they know is that they can't get something done because the network is too slow. But there's no follow-up conversation with the networking team to find out what can be done about that.
None of this means things are hopeless. There are, after all, a lot of sites happily using application acceleration appliances. But when you look at the total size of the IT market and the rate at which these appliances have been adopted, it's pretty clear that there are more customers not getting the basic idea than those that do.