Factors Driving WAN Evolution

GearsIn a blog entry I wrote at the end of last year I pointed out that while the LAN is going through a period of rapid change, there are few if any fundamentally new WAN technologies under development.  As a result, when IT organizations look to evolve their WAN they need to do so based on the existing set of technologies and services.  In this blog I am going to discuss the key factors that are driving IT organizations to evolve their WAN, and I will also discuss how IT organizations are leveraging network and application optimization as part of evolving their WAN.

In my e-book entitled The 2012 Application and Service Delivery Handbook, I describe the results of a survey that I administered to a couple of hundred IT professionals.  The survey respondents were given a set of ten factors and were asked to indicate the two factors that would likely have the most impact on the evolution of their company’s WAN over the next two years.  It is not surprising that the most common response (34.3%) was reducing cost.  Reducing cost is always a key force driving any type of change in IT.  That is particularly true in the case of wide area networking because of the large monthly recurring cost that is often associated with the WAN.

Almost the same percentage that indicated that cost was the factor that would have the most impact on their company’s WAN (32.6%) indicated that improving application performance for business critical applications was the most important factor.  At first that seemed a little strange, because the conventional wisdom in our industry is that reducing cost is by far the most important driver of WAN evolution.  However, that result doesn’t seem so strange when put in the context of another survey that I recently conducted.  In that survey the survey respondents were given a set of outcomes that could result from poor application performance.  They were asked to indicate the type of impact that typically occurs if one or more of their company’s business critical applications are performing badly, and they were allowed to indicate multiple impacts.  The most common answer (62.0%) was that the company loses revenue.

In the survey in which I asked the survey respondents to indicate the factors driving WAN evolution, I also asked them to indicate how their IT organization is approaching network and application optimization.  Only a quarter of the respondents indicated that they implement little or no functionality to optimize network and application performance.  The remaining respondents were split 2:1 between implementing optimization functionality on a case-by-case basis and implementing it throughout their environment.  This represents a major shift as just a couple of years ago the majority of IT organizations hadn’t implemented any optimization functionality and few IT organizations had implemented it throughout their environment.

Pulling together the results of the two surveys clearly indicates that WAN evolution is driven primarily by a combination of financial factors.  One of those factors is to reduce the monthly spend on the LAN and the other is to avoid losing revenues due to WAN performance having a negative impact on one or more business critical applications.  Since network and application optimization functionality can help IT organizations respond to both of those factors, it is not surprising to see the increased use of that functionality.

Image credit: ralphbijker (flickr)

About the author
Jim Metzler
Jim has a broad background in the IT industry. This includes serving as a software engineer, an engineering manager for high-speed data services for a major network service provider, a product manager for network hardware, a network manager at two Fortune 500 companies, and the principal of a consulting organization. In addition, Jim has created software tools for designing customer networks for a major network service provider and directed and performed market research at a major industry analyst firm. Jim’s current interests include both cloud networking and application and service delivery. Jim has a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Boston University.