WAN optimization turf wars

Does WAN optimization belong in the network or on the edge? Depends on whom you're asking

Some integration watchers say the integration of WAN optimization and application acceleration technologies into routers and switches is inevitable

For some industry watchers, the integration of WAN optimization and acceleration technologies into routers and switches is inevitable.

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"The technology is all about improving the performance of applications for clients through manipulation of the network," says Zeus Kerravala, a research vice president at Yankee Group. "It will be a bit of time before it is fully integrated, but unless you are going to teach every software developer about how to make applications work on networks, you are going to have to embed the intelligence and capabilities into the network."

For others, the application-delivery technology isn't a logical extension of a packet-delivery network.

"It doesn't make sense for the router to swallow up WAN optimization," says Joe Skorupa, a research director at Gartner. "Networks and applications are still two very different skill sets. It's one thing to build a router with an integrated firewall, but it's an entirely different beast to build [application intelligence] into network gear."

And although many users like the idea of reducing the number of appliances, they must distribute to remote locations, they understand that eliminating appliances altogether isn't always feasible. Such is the case at Nanometrics, a semiconductor vendor in Milpitas, Calif.

"We have a lot of offices around the world, and I need to get our CRM application out to remote sales and service staff. When I did the math on how to support all these places, well, spending money on a DS-3 was just not cost effective," says David Kizer, IT director at Nanometrics.

Kizer supports 22 facilities using either a Cisco Wide-Area Application Services appliance or a WAAS router module. For small offices, Kizer slips the WAAS module into existing routers. For larger offices or those that require more performance or scalability, he uses a WAAS appliance.

But ultimately, he says, he'd like to deliver applications worldwide without having to install hardware.

"I am on a mission to consolidate everything and support just the bare minimum at remote sites," Kizer says. "Having one device reduces support costs and simplifies troubleshooting, so the more features I can get on one box, the better."

Gartner's Skorupa points out that even though the WAAS module sits inside Cisco gear, it isn't integrated fully into the router. The technology shares the same physical location but remains a separate function, at least for the moment.

"This is not a router function, but more a services-overlay model. It may live inside the router's box, but that would be like saying that a firewall that lives in an Ethernet switch is an Ethernet switch," he says. "Maybe in 10 years there will be enough processing power within the router to do this, but for now, they are separate functions."

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