The need to improve application response times is just one of the factors driving the WAN optimization market, which grew out of the old wide-area file services (WAFS) sector. Interest is currently being stoked by the following IT trends, each of which is inexorably linked to both network and storage systems.
"The standard approach [to accommodating increased WAN use] is to overprovision the amount of bandwidth you need," he says. But purchasing more bandwidth can be very expensive. According to Whiteley, a company with an international E3 line going into Bangalore, India, for example, might pay up to $40,000 each month for a private link. But WAN optimization products, for a fraction of that cost, reduce bandwidth costs by reserving bandwidth for priority traffic and using data-reduction technologies.
"The bad news is that [WAN optimization] is still a nascent technology, so it comes with limitations," says Whiteley. These products require plenty of initial testing and careful deployment to avoid problems with reliability and scalability, he adds. "You can't just pick the vendor you have the best relationship with or the one with the best price." (See "What to test," below.)
This was first published in September 2008