Business in 2002 wasn't bad for everybody. For companies such as Mercury Interactive, SMARTS and Packeteer, the last 18 months have made them standouts, in a market where standouts really do stand out.All of these companies offer well-focused products that bring clear benefits. And they all provide effective contextual guidance for making operational and\/or business decisions when it comes to management. Today we'll take a look at Packeteer.With strong, 20% year-to-year growth, Packeteer's success is even more striking because it participates in a marketplace - variously called "QoS" or "policy-based networking" - that has generally been struggling. The number of vendors there is probably half of what it was just 18 months ago, which goes far beyond normal consolidation. It's a marketplace burdened by confusion - witness the two different names, neither of which do it justice - and by a history of technical debates and a blinding array of acronyms.Yet it represents a critical area for contextual control, where network and application performance management intersect. If you think about it, this is a market that addresses (hold your breath!): network performance, application performance, service-level management, capacity planning and infrastructure optimization, configuration management, security, and active control for enabling change. The debates have in past years so squarely lodged in the technical tradeoffs for how to enable this "control," that, for too many vendors and for too many customers, the real value of this market has been lost.Packeteer's combination of clean execution, an easily assimilated product and a clear strategic vision has made it a standout for success. Packeteer products can be purchased for as little as $2,250, with minimal administrative overhead, so that getting something in the door is easily affordable.On the other hand, Packeteer understands that when it comes to enterprise priorities, "It's the application, stupid!" Its value is in the clarity it brings to how both the network and its mix of application traffic is affecting individual applications with a relatively high level of precision.\u00a0PacketShaper is a product targeted at optimizing the bottlenecks in WAN application performance, as application traffic enters the enterprise in the "last mile" between the campus and the WAN cloud.ReportCenter provides a set of reports addressing everything from performance\u00a0 management to SLM to infrastructure utilization, to provide meaningful context to a wide variety of management decisions.Last November, Packeteer introduced PacketSeeker, which is designed to work with ReportCenter as a monitoring capability, and which can be upgraded to an active PacketShaper device.Just this week, Packeteer also introduced PacketShaper Xpress, which includes application acceleration as an alternative to packet shaping and prioritization. This positions Packeteer as a more robust control center for making effective tradeoffs across multiple active technologies to enhance application performance.Packeteer products are being used in a growing number of environments - especially those with widely distributed clients or offices across a WAN - as an initial footprint to address performance management and SLM and provide some level of control. For instance, a provider of educational application services is using PacketShaper in conjunction with What's Up Gold and some basic security software as one-stop approach to performance monitoring and optimization.PacketShaper has proved to be easy to use and administer. Or perhaps more accurately, PacketShaper is designed for building complexity, so you can put your toe in the water with it first, before you truly need to dive in for the swim.It should also be made clear that in spite of the breadth of functionality that Packeteer offers, it is focused squarely on the last-mile connection where WAN traffic meets campus networks, and as such complements those products targeted at data center and campus performance, as well as those focused at optimizing performance within the WAN cloud. It is nevertheless a good investment for a wide range of environments.