The Growing Strategic Relevance of WAN Optimization

Michael Vizard

Not too long ago, wide area network (WAN) optimization was a niche market. Largely dismissed as a “router helper,” the primary use case was to forestall the need to upgrade network infrastructure in order to meet the networking needs of a branch office.

But with the rise of mobile computing, virtualization and globalization, WAN optimization is rapidly becoming a core technology. In fact, it’s not only creating some opportunities for strange bedfellow relationships within the networking market, but the ability to deploy WAN optimization as a virtual appliance is changing the way application vendors think about the technology as well.

Most recently, Juniper Networks highlighted the growing strategic relevance of WAN optimization by agreeing to license WAN optimization technologies and sell appliances based on technology from Riverbed Technology. Previously, Juniper had relied primarily on a combination of its own technologies and products it licenses from Radware.

According to David Greene, chief marketing officer for Riverbed, the Juniper relationship is the first of many strategic alliances to come, many of which will extend into the applications space. The reason for this is that application developers want more control over how applications perform across the WAN. As such deployment models become more common, the quality of their application performance is increasingly determined by the robustness of the WAN infrastructure they run across.

A network is only as robust as its weakest link. If there are bottlenecks between the branch office and the data center or even between data centers, every application suffers to one degree or another. As cloud computing continues to evolve, the fundamental networking issues are becoming more apparent to everybody in the organization with each passing day.

The question that ultimately raises is whether WAN optimization is becoming too important to leave in the hands of the network manager or if a more dynamic approach for making WAN optimization technologies that can be invoked via application programming interfaces (APIs) by application deployment teams on demand is going to soon be required. Given the way everything related to infrastructure is becoming a service these days, chances are that approach to WAN optimization may wind up being standard operating procedure sooner than later.

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