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WAN outlook 2011: Virtual WAN optimization matures, consolidates

Industry analysts predict what changes WAN pros will see this year in WAN optimization, VPNs and carrier services, such as multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) networks.

In the second part of a series of New Year's analyst predictions for wide-area networks (WAN),

spoke with Bojan Simic, president and principal analyst of TRAC Research, about what 2011 will bring to WAN optimization technology. Simic says that WAN pros will see more mature virtual WAN optimization offerings, some mergers and acquisitions and more complete portfolios from vendors in 2011. To read part one of the WAN outlook 2011 series see how MPLS networks become a luxury while WAN op-as-a-service emerges. 

Bojan SimicBojan Simic
President and Principal Analyst, TRAC Research

Virtual WAN optimization use cases become clearer: Throughout last year, all of the major vendors released virtual WAN optimization software as an alternative to branch office appliances. Most vendors offered virtual WAN optimization software that could run on standard third-party servers with the notable exception of Cisco Systems, which requires its Virtual Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) to run on its own Unified Computing System x86 servers. Although vendors jumped on the virtual WAN optimization bandwagon, they were vague about the specific use cases where virtual appliances would be superior to hardware-based products. Expect the air to clear in 2011, Simic said.

"We talk to some end users and they say, '[Virtual WAN optimization] doesn't work for us,' and others say, 'This is the best thing for us.'"

Virtual WAN optimization is likely to elbow its way into cloud services and will likely be built into cloud offerings, Simic said.

"The whole software model makes it easier for service providers and even some cloud providers to offer [virtual] WAN optimization as a feature in the service offering," he said. "We definitely see WAN optimization-as-a-service getting more traction next year, and software is one of the key things enabling that."

2011: The year of WAN optimization M&As?:  In past years, WAN optimization vendors have been buyers, with Blue Coat Systems acquiring Packeteer in 2008 and Riverbed Technology buying Mazu Networks in 2009. This year, WAN optimization vendors could become the acquisition targets, Simic said.

"I can definitely see more consolidation in this market, especially with [vendors] changing how they deliver their solutions and the role they'll be playing in enabling the cloud," Simic said. "We'll see some of these vendors be acquired by companies that are really into the cloud management space."

No major appliance changes, vendors round out portfolios:  "If you look at portfolios of WAN optimization vendors and [the] capabilities they're providing, there's really not much left [for them to add]," Simic said. "And even what's left is being segmented by those focusing more on acceleration capabilities and data caching versus those who play more into the quality of service (QoS), visibility and bandwidth management space."

WAN optimization vendors will spend a good part of 2011 adding any features they're missing, Simic said. That won't necessarily make the vendors offerings’ equal, however.

"Even if folks like Cisco added more advanced QoS, they will not be competing and leading with QoS," Simic said. "They will be using QoS [so as] not to lose deals."   

Continue reading WAN outlook 2011: 4G and iPads drive mobile VPN, branch offices grow.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer.

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