WAN Optimization: In the Cloud or On-Premises?

LAS VEGAS. The emergence of the cloud is one of the best things to ever happen to WAN optimization vendors.

That was the consensus of a panel of vendors including Akamai, Riverbed, Blue Coat and Virtela at the Interop conference this week. WAN optimization technologies enable enterprises to get more out of their WAN links in terms of quality of service, performance and capacity. As more applications move to the cloud, the need for optimized WAN links has become increasingly important.

“We’re now sitting at an intersection of trends in the market coming right to us because of our object caching heritage and now that applications are being delivered from the cloud and they are delivering video, now is a good time to talk about next generation WAN optimization,” Ben Rice, VP of Worldwide Business and Corporate Development at Blue Coat Systems told the Interop audience. “You must have foundation of WAN acceleration that all of on the panel have up here.”

There are at least two different approaches to accelerating and optimizing WAN traffic. One involves customer premise equipment with gear from companies like Blue Coat and Riverbed, while the other is all in the cloud or with Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) like Akamai.

Cloud-based WAN optimization vendor Virtela is a new startup that is a global managed network and cloud services vendor. Mark Weiner, Senior VP of Marketing at Virtela explained that Virtela is taking care of WAN optimization at both ends of the network connection without the need for enterprises to purchase any on-premise hardware do it.

“You get all the optimization in the cloud and the benefit is you don’t have to manage the hardware,” Weiner said.

Weiner had previously worked at Cisco helping to manage the Cisco WAAS WAN optimization products. He noted that it could often take weeks or months to tweak hardware to get the performance that customers wanted. In his view, having an in the cloud service like Virtela, saves IT time, by managing the process.

Virtela uses a globally distributed based of 50 points of presence (POPs) they call local cloud centers. Traffic is optimized by routing though those centers.

There is however another option, that is now being worked on by Riverbed and Akamai in a new joint effort.

“There is WAN optimization and there is cloud optimization and now Riverbed and Akamai are partnering to solve the challenges of both deployments,” Neil Cohen, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Akamai said. “We’re going to combine protocol optimization and footprint and give you symmetrical optimization for cloud providers.”

The joint Akamai Riverbed effort will see Akamai code land in Riverbed’s on-premise Steelhead devices in order to help optimize delivery. Riverbed code will also find its way into Akamai to accelerate data through the Akamai network.

“We’re in a new age of Web optimization and whether you look at on premise or service provider models, the challenge is that the world is getting more complicated,” Cohen said. “You have to solve problems on your network, in the cloud and for mobile users.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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