MSPs Link WAN Optimization Opportunities to Cloud Computing

A couple of years ago, WAN optimization began making a bigger splash among managed services providers. The thinking was, WAN optimization offered MSPs a chance to branch out from providing WAN links and managed routers. Since then, the market -- and MSP opportunity -- has continued to evolve. In 2010, vendors rolled out WAN optimization as a virtual appliance rather than a hardware device, providing another deployment option for MSPs. Channel programs began to emerge. Now, a series of announcements have moved WAN optimization into a brighter  spotlight...

Here are a few examples:

Riverbed Technology recently April expanded its partner base for Cloud Steelhead, the company’s WAN optimization product for cloud service providers. Cloud Steelhead now provides “validated technical compatibility” with such cloud service providers as Terremark, ZettaServe and Xtium, according to the company. Riverbed also cited CloudSwitch and Media Platform as technology partners. The new alliances are in addition to Cloud Steelhead’s work with Amazon EC2 and VPC.

In Europe, TeraGate, an MSP based in Munich, last month tapped Silver Peak Systems’ WAN optimization to its managed services portfolio. Silver Peak offers both hardware and virtual appliances.

Looking ahead, Blue Coat Systems said it will demonstrate the company’s Optimized Video Delivery technology at this week's Interop conference in Las Vegas. Blue Coat, which partners with a range of companies, recently realigned its product groups to focus on WAN optimization along with Web security and cloud services.

What’s behind the WAN optimization activity? Several factors are in play, including:

1. Growing performance needs, tight IT budgets: Fifty-five percent of the executives and IT managers responding to a recent survey described boosting application performance over their WANs as a near-term network infrastructure priority. The study, conducted by Boston-based market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, surveyed 342 executives at organizations with WANs ranging from 100 to more than 500 networked sites.

But while the demand for performance exists, the funding to invest in WANs typically doesn’t.

Doug Medina, senior director of enterprise marketing at Hughes Network Systems, which commissioned the Chadwick Martin Bailey survey, said respondents cited maxed out budgets and the need to get more performance out of their WANs without embarking on a major upgrade. Hughes Network Systems offer managed network services.

“That is one of the reasons that WAN optimization seems to be resonating with them,” Medina said.

2. Data center consolidation: Companies that have gone through years of data center consolidation find themselves with longer distances between users and computing facilities, noted Ellen Rubin, founder and vice president of products at CloudSwitch. Those companies may lack the budget to build bandwidth out to locations.

3. Expansion of rich-content applications in distributed organizations: Retailers that deliver video and Web access to customers as they walk into stores have driven up bandwidth requirements as well as application performance demands, Medina said. Companies in verticals such as hospitality and restaurants share a similar profile.

Hughes Network Systems earlier this year launched its Virtualized Branch Server offering, which aims to boost applications in branch locations. Sampath Ramaswami, senior director, services development and marketing at Hughes Network Systems, said the branch server offering incorporates WAN optimization at its core but also includes other components such as virtualization.

4: Cloud computing: Organizations that are running production workloads in the cloud are “starting to encounter problems associated with WAN optimization,” noted John Considine, founder and chief technology officer at CloudSwitch.

Considine likened cloud computing to a remote data center, noting that cloud users may experience latency issues.

The takeaway: Service providers who haven’t added WAN optimization to their offerings have a few more reasons for doing so.

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