WAAS Happening?

cisco waas roadmapAccording to Cisco’s Mark Lohmeyer, rumors of WAAS’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. “Cisco is fully committed to the WAAS business.” Given the growing WAN optimization prospects for the foreseeable future, that commitment shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Questions about the networking giant’s commitment to WAAS (Wide Area Application Services) – its software/hardware WAN optimization and application acceleration solution – started swirling recently as it continued the restructuring begun in 2011 following some less-than-stellar fiscal results. Cisco said it would exit or de-emphasize underperforming businesses and has in a number of areas since last year, including: consumer video (Flip videocamera and Umi personal telepresence); hosted email (Cisco Mail); energy management, tablet computing (Cius); and load balancing (application delivery networking [ADN] via its Application Control Engine [ACE]).

It was the recent report that the WAAS group was hit hardest in Cisco’s latest round of 1,600 layoffs that spurred the WANop rumors. However, unlike the businesses that didn’t make the cut, WAN optimization is a market that is expected to grow strongly over the next few years, and already contributes a healthy return to Cisco.

“We have made some changes in our go-to-market approach, but our engineering teams remain fully engaged and working against our long term roadmap to drive application awareness into the network,” wrote Lohmeyer in a recent blog. Calling it the most powerful WAN optimization system in the market today, he assured any doubters that Cisco is committed to WAAS for the long-term, and remains “fully engaged and working against our long term WAAS roadmap” to drive application awareness into the network.

Several analyst reports put Cisco’s 2011 WANop market share at 23-25%, and Infonetics Research reported they were the leader in unit share for WAN optimization appliances during the last three quarters, and maintains an installed base of more than 165,000 units with 10,000-plus customers. The overall market is expected to expand tenfold between 2011 and 2016, with Riverbed currently in top spot (50%), Cisco in second place, and a number of competitors including Aryaka Networks, Blue Coat Systems and Silver Peak Systems.

Regardless of the way it is achieved – via physical or increasingly, virtual, appliance – Cisco’s WAAS appeal and WAN optimization will continue to address the growing need for faster, better networks.

Image source: flickr (chucknado)