WAN optimization vendors: Comparison methodology and snapshot

We polled the major WAN optimization vendors for product information and compiled it to help you make a vendor comparison. Here we list the main differences between WOC providers, in brief.

In order to gain some insight into the WAN optimization marketplace, a set of questions was sent to each of the primary WAN optimization vendors. Those providers were Blue Coat, Certeon, Cisco, Citrix, Expand, F5, Ipanema, Juniper, Riverbed and Silver Peak. (See the links below for more vendor specifics.)

The WAN optimization controller (WOC) market is highly varied. The major vendors position themselves differently and provide products that support a wide range of functionality, with only some overlap. Note that testing these solutions was not a part of creating this guide; it was compiled based on the vendors' responses alone. However, some clear distinctions can be drawn to help you make a vendor comparison:

  • Cisco emphasizes the fact that its products will integrate better with Cisco switches and routers than any other WAN optimization controller. Cisco also believes that the work that they have done with major software vendors differentiates them in the marketplace.
  • Riverbed distinguishes itself in part due to its relationships with a wide range of partners in general, and by its partnership with Microsoft in particular. Riverbed also accentuates that it is in the business of providing performance improvements to networked environments.
  • Silver Peak focuses on data-center-class WAN optimization solutions that typically require high throughput. Its solutions optimize both TCP and non-TCP based applications.
  • Juniper differentiates itself in part because it provides an integrated, secure, branch office solution (the WXC Integrated Services Module running on Juniper's J-Series Router) and because Juniper intends to introduce WAN optimization functionality into its SRX access router family.
  • Citrix is a software company with a longstanding partnership with Microsoft. It states that its goal is to transform IT into an on-demand service by centralizing the management and delivery of applications and desktops and integrating network optimization with application, desktop and server virtualization.
  • Blue Coat Systems focuses on what it refers to as application delivery networking. Based on combining its strengths in security and optimization, Blue Coat claims to offer unmatched visibility and control into the security and performance of business applications and Web traffic running across the networks of distributed enterprises.
  • Ipanema Technologies does not sell directly to enterprise IT organizations, but rather to system integrators and VARs, as well as to service providers. Ipanema positions itself not as a vendor of "boxes" but rather as a provider of a system that covers all the needs related to application performance management and WAN optimization.
  • Expand Networks focuses on supporting branch office server consolidation, server-based computing (SBC) and virtualization technologies such as Citrix and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), as well as low-bandwidth, high-latency links such as those typically associated with satellite communications. Expand's virtual appliance provides high availability and warm cache functionality at no cost to the customer.
  • Certeon is the one major WAN optimization controller vendor to provide only a virtualized solution (having retired its physical appliance). Certeon also claims to be the only WOC vendor that provides a full virtual appliance that supports the market's leading virtual hypervisors and management systems.

Many of the WAN optimization vendors also claim that they are differentiated in the marketplace because they offer an integrated solution. In many cases, however, what they mean by "integrated" varies widely. The following sections of this guide will discuss the major vendors in the market, their differentiation in more specific terms, and the important functionality provided by their products.

For more, read all the sections in our guide:

About the author:
Dr. Jim Metzler, principal at Ashton Metzler and Associates, is a widely recognized authority on network technology and its business applications. In more than 28 years of experience, Jim has helped numerous vendors refine product and service strategies and has helped enterprises evolve network infrastructures. He has directed and conducted market research at a major industry analyst firm and run a consulting firm. Jim holds a Ph.D. in numerical analysis from Boston University. He is co-author of the book Layer 3 Switching: A Guide for IT Professionals (Prentice Hall).

This was first published in February 2010

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