In its earliest days, the WAN optimization market focused on bandwidth management. But today's most successful vendors offer an additional combination of protocol optimization, video delivery capabilities and mobile device support.
The WAN optimization market has plenty of room for innovation -- particularly in the areas of cloud, video, multipoint QoS and security, according to Joe Skorupa, research vice president at Gartner. The vendors who innovate beyond bandwidth management are advancing into a leadership position in Gartner's new WAN Optimization Magic Quadrant.
WAN optimization Magic Quadrant: beyond bandwidth management
To address cloud and mobile requirements, WAN optimization vendors are adjusting their deployment models. WAN optimization has traditionally been a symmetrical technology, with hardware deployed on both ends of a connection. But vendors are increasingly developing asymmetrical techniques, such as mobile clients and virtual WAN optimization controllers, to improve application performance for remote and mobile users and to improve cloud computing performance.
"From bandwidth management and control, to protocol optimization, video caching and delivery and support for mobile devices, WAN optimization is beyond just the traditional symmetrical approaches," Skorupa said.
The leaders identified in Gartner's new WAN optimization Magic Quadrant -- Blue Coat Systems, Riverbed Technology and Silver Peak Systems -- have demonstrated an ability to serve many of these requirements.
Blue Coat's WAN optimization product -- MACH5 -- offers strong video optimization with its focus on media streaming protocols, asymmetrical WAN optimization and its SaaS optimization, according to Gartner.
The protocol optimization offered by Blue Coat "just works excellent," said Seth Weingarten, vice president of network technologies at NCC Media, a 1,800-employee advertising sales and technology company. When he compared Blue Coat's MACH5 with Riverbed's Steelhead product line, Weingarten found that MACH5's ability to work asymmetrically was the deciding factor.
Blue Coat has demonstrated strong innovation in network video optimization, Weingarten said. And he expects the vendor to stay ahead of the trend. Blue Coat announced this week the availability of new video capabilities for MACH5. The WAN optimization solution will now support encrypted flash video and will have the ability to scale the use of live or on-demand internal company video and external Web video.
WAN optimization Magic Quadrant: Converging with other application delivery technologies
The leaders in the WAN optimization Magic Quadrant are not just focused on performance, Skorupa said. Riverbed is a longtime WAN optimization leader with its Steelhead product family, including new options like Virtual Steelhead, Cloud Steelhead and Steelhead Mobile client software.
"I don't doubt that there are vendors making products that work as well, but that's just a small part of it for me. It's the total experience," said Searl Tate, director of network engineering of Paul Hastings, an international law firm. "Riverbed has done a good job of holistically presenting WAN optimization as part of infrastructure but then growing that into a broader portfolio of infrastructure products," said Tate.
Tate, who uses Riverbed's Steelhead products across 20 offices, said Riverbed's Whitewater cloud storage product and Granite, its new virtual server infrastructure offering, are broadening Riverbed into a larger infrastructure company.
"These solutions will soon be a part of our global consolidation story as we shrink 16 data centers down to four," he said.
Silver Peak Systems, which Gartner elevated to the leader quadrant in the new WAN optimization Magic Quadrant, offers flexibility regarding hardware and virtual appliance deployment options, according to Gartner.
Virtualization has changed the traditional WAN optimization market of the past, according to Rick Tinsley, CEO of Silver Peak. Silver Peak offers both hardware and virtual WAN optimization products for its customers -- NX appliances and VX/VRX virtual appliances.
Silver Peak has also partnered with several companies for the delivery of virtual storage appliances, and partners like Avaya are allowing for Silver Peak to offer WAN optimization as a virtual machine on some of its routers, Tinsley said.
WAN optimization Magic Quadrant: Niche vendors can deliver on new trends, too
With the WAN optimization market moving beyond bandwidth management, vendors outside the leader quadrant of the Magic Quadrant have products that can help enterprises with specific needs, Skorupa said.
"If an enterprise has a very intensive need for mobile device support, a niche vendor like Circadence stands out," he said.
The WAN optimization Magic Quadrant praised Circadence for its improved Microsoft Windows mobile client and its small-footprint client for Android devices. Circadence will be working to make its mobility offerings more available via several vendor partnerships, Skorupa said.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer