Insight from the road

* Highlights from recent network and application optimization tour

Jim recently completed a six-city seminar tour for Network World on the topic of network and application optimization. At each city, six of the industry’s leading vendors presented their views on the topic. In addition, during each seminar the audience engaged in a highly interactive question and answer session with the vendors. We will use the next few newsletters to highlight some of the key issues that were discussed during this tour.

Let’s start with the areas in which there was wide agreement on the part of the vendors. There was general agreement amongst them that there's a lot of malicious and recreational traffic that transits the typical WAN. The fact that there is a lot of misuse of corporate WANs is a topic that we have discussed in detail in recent newsletters.

* What is termed network misuse in one company may not be so in another

* Naive users who hog (or bring down) the network

* Network managers reveal extent of network misuse on their nets

In order to quantify the severity of the situation, Packeteer presented some market research that showed the vast majority of network traffic is not business critical. In response to this situation, the recommendation that many vendors made was that IT organizations should not just blindly accelerate all traffic because this has the affect of accelerating the malicious and recreational traffic. Rather, IT organizations need to identify this traffic and either eliminate it or exert strict controls over how much WAN bandwidth it can consume.

The issue of how an IT organization justifies the deployment of a network and application optimization solution was a hot topic for the vendors and the audience. To put this in context, up until now the deployment of these solutions has been largely tactical. Meaning the solutions that have been deployed tend to have been very narrowly focused and typically justified primarily on cost savings. An example of such a deployment is an IT organization that ships large files over a WAN link between the U.S. and India. As part of a tactical solution, this organization would implement just one optimization technique (compression) on this one link and would justify it because implementing this solution is less costly than upgrading the WAN circuit.

There was general agreement that while many implementations of optimization solutions are still tactical, a growing number of implementation are becoming more strategic. This means that these deployments involve multiple optimization techniques (i.e., compression, caching, protocol and application acceleration), are deployed widely through the network and are often justified based on the positive impact that they have on the company’s key applications.

As a result of this movement to implement strategic solutions, Expand Networks advised the seminar attendees that they should implement solutions that provide a wide range of functionality. The point that Expand made was that even if you start with a tactical solution based on just one or two optimization techniques, you will soon want to implement additional optimization techniques and need to feel comfortable that the solution you implement will let you do this.

If the topic of network and application optimization interests you, you should note that Jim will be moderating a similar Network World seminar on Nov. 30 in San Francisco. If you are in the area you are invited to attend and continue this important conversation.

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