I recently asked readers of this newsletter what they wanted to see from vendors promising to accelerate applications over WAN links. The responses from readers varied, but not terribly so, which to me, means the message is clear for vendors in this market looking to win customers dollars: Distinguish yourself, provide multi-purpose tools that are easy to maintain and integrate, at a low cost.A tall order for sure, and one that is definitely easier said that done, but the market is currently flooded with a range of vendors, all promising similar features and exaggerated results. Customers need more information before they will be willing to change their current approach to WAN optimization or before they invest in a newcomer with lofty goals.As one reader puts it, he needs help seeing through the hype to the reality of the products. His message follows:"As the WAN acceleration market grows, the need for information also grows, as does the technical knowledge level of the customers."Your newsletter is falling behind. The subject article looks like a press release. Perhaps that's by design, as an editor you wouldn't be writing evaluations; however, you probably know who is. That information would help those of us who are inundated with marketing claims."I'm interested in where the market is going. Will, as I suspect, that market disappear entirely, and the acceleration components move into the routers and the servers, with protocol changes along the way? Microsoft seems likely to remove the caching people sometime after R2 (i.e., when the bugs get worked out), Exchange now behaves pretty well, and the ROI on accelerators is short enough that I'm not overly concerned with 'best', as long as I can fit it into my environment with minimum risk."So far, most claims that make one product superior to another in a specific area either don't test true, or the improvement is marginal and may try to distract from a shortcoming elsewhere. Since they don't interoperate, I just pick one that does an adequate job and has great pre-sales support and go with it. It makes it difficult for newcomers to get in. You could probably help in this area as well, by getting the vendors to answer the question: 'What, exactly, would make me want to buy your product over your competitor's product?' or better yet, 'Why would I want to replace my existing installations with your product?'"Another reader offered more technical specifics in what he'd like to see in WAN optimization products. This reader from Australia (note the spelling of a few choice words) explained a few areas in which he'd like to see improvements from existing vendors. His e-mail to me follows:"In my view there are some 'gaps' in the existing WAN optimisation solutions available in the market. Whilst this space is relatively immature and progressing daily, there are some functions that are a necessity in a large global dispersed enterprise to truly make this type of technology holistic in the enterprise:"* More comprehensive and granular [QoS] ability within an application acceleration appliance - don't want multiple solutions to provide application optimisation, acceleration and compression and then have another appliance for QoS, such as Packeteer (guaranteed bandwidth for specific applications). This assumes that we as an organisation don't rely on our routing infrastructure to provide QoS functionality. Many vendors in this space presently do not provide this function.* More comprehensive reporting functions. Current WAN optimisation solutions are very immature in relation to reporting and therefore do not give a holistic view as to the performance gains from the optimisation appliances.* Secure Sockets Layer acceleration and optimisation. If organisations use SSL encryption internally (not debating the merits of this) then existing optimisation solutions are not able to look inside this encrypted payloads and therefore unable to accelerate\/cache and optimise this traffic - it simply becomes pass-thru traffic. Most vendors have plans and roadmaps to address this limitation, but this is a critical requirement."What are your wants in WAN optimization and\/or application acceleration products? Let me know at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.Are you curious about the different approaches to speeding up those applications? We've invited Silver Peak, Cisco, Packeteer and Citrix to discuss their different approaches. They'll be participating in\u00a0our online forum: Application acceleration across the WAN the week of Feb. 27 to answer your questions - and we'll have a library of links to related papers. If you want to get a head start, though, send your WAN acceleration questions now to Network World Executive Editor, Online Adam Gaffin and the vendors will start working on answers.