It might sound counter-intuitive, but the smart network service providers shouldn't be betting the farm on simply selling you increasing volumes of network bandwidth.\u00a0 If your IT budget is flat, if not shrinking, look to carriers focusing on what you really need: services that improve application performance but also help you reduce your total network cost of ownership.To this end, last week we encouraged you to get a handle on your bandwidth usage, application mix, and per-application performance. Then, you can begin to manage traffic in ways that eke more out of your existing capacity. Surprisingly, you can start looking to some service providers to help you out on this score.Equant, for example, recently announced a global managed caching service. The offering follows a traditional managed-service model: the provider installs and manages CPE - in this case, a Network Appliance NetCache appliance - at your sites that stores content closer to remote users. This avoids WAN bottlenecks that can degrade application performance.The offering is available as an adjunct to Equant's IP VPN service, and the carrier says it can save you up to 40% on WAN bandwidth by preventing remote user service requests from constantly having to traverse the WAN. Average monthly recurring fees for the service is usually less than $1,000 per managed site, says Simon Abrahams, Equant's product manager for cache management and server management.He advises that before buying anything, you should conduct an analysis of your network traffic to identify any potential financial benefits of caching. Equant offers a Web Traffic Assessment service, based on Packeteer's PacketShaper appliance, if you don't want to do this yourself or use an outside consultant.Meanwhile, the PacketShaper is also part of a separate, traffic-shaping managed service the carrier has offered for about two years, which works with the carrier's IP VPN, frame relay and ATM services. In addition, you can purchase the PacketShaper-based service for use on other carriers' networks, Abrahams says.