WAN Optimization Market has Evolved, Say Players

by Sonal Desai    Nov 07, 2008

Crisil, one of the largest credit rating agencies in India, has a distributed workforce. The challenge before the company was to improve response time, optimize servers and also centralize data in its data centers and the disaster recovery center. But these functions were being curtailed because of WAN bandwidth and latency limitations.

“Since we work in a distributed environment, a lot of our data was getting duplicated. We have offices at various sites in India and our disaster recovery center is in Bangalore. The time for data replication was also going beyond admissible limits,” said Yusuf Madraswala, head (technology) of Crisil. The agency opted for WAN optimization.

He said once the WAN was optimized and bandwidth multiplied, which took nearly three to four days, the productivity increased manifold, and data duplication has also decreased.

The WAN optimization market has evolved over years. Even the WAN optimization portfolio has increased from various angles viz. bandwidth management, application prioritization, content cashing and completion. And large enterprises are moving from a distributed IT architecture to a synchronous one.

From a time when vendors offered independent solutions to address each of these pain points, to the last two to three years, vendors have converged these features. “Companies like Riverbed and Juniper have equipment that carries all these features besides working closely with application providers such as SAP and Oracle among others,” said Naresh Chandra Singh, principal analyst for Gartner.

New applications that are increasingly getting collaborative, distributed, real-time, media-rich, but also bandwidth hungry are impacting the large Indian enterprise. They are using applications over the network to streamline operational efficiency and effectively communicate with their customers, partners, suppliers, and branch offices.

At the same time, the corporate structure is flattening. Many corporate employees are working in remote offices. According to a recent survey, more than 35 % of the workforce is located in branch offices in certain industries, said Sumit Mukhija, national sales manager (data center) for Cisco India and SAARC.

An empowered branch should have fully integrated security, voice, video, wireless security and data solutions. It should have the same capabilities as the headquarter without any re-investments on the back-end infrastructure. WAN optimization ails these pain points and also reduces excessive costs associated with deploying and managing servers, storage and back-up to meet user productivity requirements.

“As businesses grow the CEO priorities around how the infrastructure should gear up to impact return on investment, total cost of ownership, customer service and experience increases,” said Vivek Singh, regional director, India and Saarc for Riverbed Technologies. “The need to comply with different regulations is also keeping the organisations on tender hooks.”

One of the largest manufacturing companies in India was facing similar problems due to bandwidth crunch. Repeated requests to the service provider fell on deaf ears. Problems in the storage system had begun to impact efficiency and productivity at the branch offices. The manufacturer migrated to Riverbed. The IT head said that he was able to justify investment on this technology as the bandwidth was periodic and the company could run all its applications on one platform. “What started as a one-area-experiment has today expanded to deployments across 15 locations in India.”

Vivek Singh said that though more and more WANs evolve, they are not consolidated. Also data centers in some locations take time to upgrade, and service providers take their own time to fulfill the needs. This can prove costly to a business. “An increase in quality of service, security and trouble shooting requirements is a must as more applications traffic traverses the WAN,” said Mukhija.

Naresh Singh from Gartner said that people have realized that bandwidth is not solving the problem. “As more and more workforce gets mobile and distributed, meeting the network requirements is a big challenge. So the question is to either grow with the network or use it optimally.”

Some providers, Singh said, are moving to provide applications on MySAP and Oracle. Compared to earlier when the server and client were application specific, people are now looking at browser based applications. Traditionally people thought that if they add a better router or switch, it would solve their problem. But back then nobody realized that routers and switches have a specific role to play in a network. They did not cater to network protocol protection and optimization. Companies such as Cisco and Juniper have now taken a leap into this area. But more integration is required.

Nemertes Research has the last say here. “WAN optimization is no longer a luxury; it is a requirement. Increasingly, IT decision-makers want the option to integrate WAN optimization and application acceleration into a single branch-office device,” said Robin Gareiss, executive vice president and senior founding partner of Nemertes Research. “Already, 17% of organizations are using all-in-one devices, and 55% are using WAN optimization. Moving forward, they want devices to provide switching/routing, security, voice over IP, optimization, and WAFS. Vendors who can provide these capabilities independently- and as part of an integrated solution-will end up on the short lists of enterprises assessing the market.”

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