Cisco puts WAAS and more in router

* Cisco looks to add acceleration and optimization with WAAS and track its success via traffic analysis capabilities in NAM

The market explosion around application acceleration and WAN optimization technologies in 2006 stirred up many discussions around how exactly these performance and speed enhancing technologies should be delivered. And industry watchers, enterprise IT managers and vendors alike debated how many features could be integrated into one appliance to deliver LAN-like performance to those distributed branch offices connecting to data centers via a WAN.

The debates haven't focused on the necessity of having such technologies because the argument against putting these tools in place is nearly non-existent for companies with multiple branch offices or with file-sharing and collaboration needs. For instance, cost could be an issue if deploying many symmetrical appliances in branch offices and end users must perform their due diligence to find the technology that best suits their particular business needs, but so far generally speaking, application acceleration devices and WAN optimization appliances deliver results - and they do so fairly quickly.

Cisco this week firmly puts its stake in the ground on the side of integrating acceleration and optimization features into the network infrastructure. Of course, Cisco provides the network infrastructure via its integrated services routers (ISR) so it makes sense the vendor would also want to incorporate its recently announced Wide-Area Application Services (WAAS) into a blade for the ISR. Coupled with its Network Analysis Module (NAM), Cisco is looking to add acceleration and optimization with WAAS and track its success via traffic analysis capabilities in NAM.

Industry watchers agree it makes sense for Cisco, which dominates the network equipment market, to put additional capabilities into its existing and updated products for customers looking to take on innovative network optimization technologies.

"The WAAS blade belongs in the router. …It manipulates network traffic to improve the performance of applications," says Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president of enterprise research, Yankee Group. "Many of the boxes that sit outside the router require the routers to be reconfigured. You could build routing into a WAAS box as well, but it makes sense to have it together. If you're not Cisco and you don't own the router, you need to do a lot of work to make sure it's transparent."

Gartner, in its Magic Quadrant assessment of the market, placed Cisco in the "challengers" segment, despite the vendor's late entry with products in the second half this year. The analysts authoring the report acknowledge Cisco tackled acceleration technologies too late to be considered a market leader or innovator just yet, but with its market presence, distribution and support capabilities, the vendor could quickly catch up with identified market leaders such as Riverbed, Juniper Networks, Expand Networks and Packeteer. The advantage Cisco has is that its add-on technologies would ideally work with the existing network, security and QoS technologies in place at enterprise companies.

"Consider Cisco if WAN optimization is required where complex QoS, security and monitoring schemes are already in place," the Gartner report reads.

Where do you think acceleration and optimization technologies fit in? Is it better to keep them separate from the routing and QoS infrastructure? Or should the technologies be integrated to offer customers intelligent capabilities into their network gear?

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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