Last week I began a discussion of why WAN performance optimization technologies should be considered when IT managers start doling out their 2006 budgets on new technologies.Among the drivers is a need for better performance over the WAN considering the growth in remote workers and the centralization of IT services and data center consolidation. Companies more often need to back up data at distributed locations over the WAN as well, which puts additional demands on the already unpredictable performance that networks can deliver over the wide area.Picking up on last week's discussion, which was based on a recent report distributed by the Burton Group, other drivers for WAN optimization in 2006 include new applications such as VoIP. VoIP, on the LAN and WAN, require a higher priority over the links, which forces other applications to suffer poorer service levels if the organization is unable to increase bandwidth, according to Eric Siegel, a senior analyst with Burton Group who authored the report, "Optimizing WAN Performance: Accelerating Market Growth.""Instead of massive bandwidth (and cost) increases, enterprises are considering [QoS] solutions coupled with WAN performance optimization to conceal the loss in priority from downgraded applications," Siegel writes.Cost pressures, as Siegel mentions, are also going to make enterprise IT managers look to WAN technology before they invest in more bandwidth. He notes that bandwidth, despite recent price breaks, is still far too expensive to be considered a cost-effective option. In addition to the driving factors, advances in WAN optimization technologies should garner enterprise interest in 2006.Siegel cites advances in compression technologies and communications protocols as areas that developed to a point that makes them a much more practical option than in the past."Optimization technology offers the opportunity to decrease bandwidth needs and monthly costs while providing better service to users," Siegel says in the report.* For more discussions about WAN optimization techniques, please also check out Network World's twice-weekly WANs newsletter.