Are you in a state of denial over the need for network, application optimization?

* The need to optimize won’t be going away any time soon

Jim recently moderated a seminar series on the topic of network and application optimization that was produced by Network World. We recently wrote a series of newsletters that discussed the key messages of the vendors that spoke at the seminars.

The newsletters are: “How does your company handle recreational use of Internet resources?”; “The three components of application delivery according to Cisco”; “Juniper’s take on network optimization”; “Microsoft SharePoint could be a challenge for WAN optimization”; and “The benefits of managed service for applications performance”.

We are going to use this and the next couple of newsletters to discuss some of the questions that the audience had for the vendors. Looked at collectively, these newsletters provide good insight into the top-of-mind issues for both the buyers and the sellers in this dynamic market.

At each of the seminars the attendees were encouraged to fill out an index card with one or more questions. Jim used these questions at the end of the day to drive an interactive question and answer period with the sponsors. Certain themes tended to show up in each of the four cities and one of those was denial. In each city a number of the attendees really wanted to believe that the need for network and application optimization would go away. Given the complexity of this technology, that is a totally understandable desire.

One of the questions that expressed the attendee’s denial was the question, “Won’t the cost of WAN bandwidth drop to where it no longer makes sense to use these solutions?” The answer is a distinct no in part because in many cases the reason that the application is performing badly is because the application uses a chatty protocol. Adding WAN bandwidth will not make any significant improvement to the performance of these applications.

Another reason for that answer is because in most cases, the volume of data sent over the WAN is increasing faster than the cost of WAN bandwidth is decreasing.

Another one of the questions that expressed the attendee’s denial was the question: “Isn’t Microsoft re-writing its applications to perform better over the WAN?” The answer is a distinct maybe. For example, Microsoft Exchange uses the Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) protocol. In Microsoft Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000, MAPI exhibited many of the chatty protocol characteristics that CIFS (Common Internet File System) exhibits. For these versions of Exchange, application acceleration is often necessary in order to overcome the limitations of MAPI and to overcome the issues associated with large e-mail attachments. However, Exchange 2003 and its subsequent releases changed the operation of the MAPI protocol to make it less chatty, and a ‘cache mode’ has been enabled so that the user does not feel the impact of the underlying protocol. Hence, for these versions of Exchange, acceleration refers to just overcoming the issues associated with large e-mail attachments.

We would like to hear from you. Do you see the cost of WAN bandwidth decreasing? If so, is it decreasing faster than the growth in your traffic? Have you seen that the changes that Microsoft has made led to improvements in the performance of its applications?

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