WAN optimization: Useful, still not well understood

* One-third of respondents in a Gartner survey were not aware of WAN optimization techniques

Enterprises worldwide have a lot to learn about WAN optimization, which presents a good opportunity for vendors.

That’s one of the conclusions of Gartner in its study of companies’ use of QoS and WAN optimization.

The research firm defines WAN optimization products as those that use techniques including bandwidth management (QoS), compression, caching and protocol optimization to overcome application performance problems caused by bandwidth constraints, latency or protocol limitations. Its new report is based on a July 2008 survey of 422 companies, each with more than 1,000 employees, in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, China, India and Japan.

Among the findings is that one-third of respondents were not aware of WAN optimization techniques. It’s up to vendors to educate companies and build up mindshare, Gartner suggests.

“Vendor education needs to emphasize benefits, rather than technology for the sake of it, and must emphasize IT and business benefits, such as the possible deferral of a bandwidth upgrade,” reads the report, authored by analysts Severine Real and Joe Skorupa. “ROI models and case studies are useful tools that vendors should use.”

To date, WAN optimization equipment has been deployed in 34% of the large enterprises that participated in Gartner’s survey. Another 28% are piloting it or have partially deployed it. Among those planning to deploy WAN optimization equipment, 14% expect to deploy it within a year, and another 14% plan to do so within two years, Gartner reports.

On the QoS front, half of the enterprises surveyed are using protocol-specific or application-specific QoS in their WAN, while 32% expect to use it within two years, and 18% do not expect to do so within that time frame.

When asked about reasons for deploying WAN optimization technology, survey respondents most often cited improved response times and getting more out of the WAN.

“The need to do more with less is imperative,” Real and Skorupa said. “Using [WAN optimization controllers] is a good way to achieve this, as ROI is easy to measure and relatively rapid compared with other technologies, especially where bandwidth is expensive, which is usually the case with international or intercontinental links.”

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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