WANop Flesh Wound From Slings And Arrows?

bow and arrow WANopRecently, WAN optimization has been subject to a lot of troubling news, and if not suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” then the gist of them has been more than it’s “only a flesh wound.” Regardless which muse brightens your day, Shakespeare’s “slings” or Monty Python’s “wound,” the reality is that WANop concerns are “much ado about nothing,” as optimizing wide area networks (WANs) is as critical today and going forward as it ever has been.

The year started off with a resounding thud, with WANop appliance sales down a surprising 20% in the first quarter, although overall data center equipment sales grew a robust 17%. Then there were concern’s raised about Cisco’s commitment to its software/hardware WANop and application acceleration solution, WAAS (Wide Area Application Services), despite its recent protestations and the fact that Cisco is the second-largest WAN optimization vendor.

And now Juniper has decided to pull out of this segment and announced end-of-life for its line of WX optimizers. It is pointing customers interested in go-forward optimization solutions at Riverbed, which follows July’s announcement that Juniper would incorporate Riverbed’s Stingray application delivery controller (ADC) code into its service platform, and Riverbed’s optimization soft client into its own Pulse mobile client. “With 68% of organizations deploying some form of WAN optimization now and few evaluating or planning future deployments, Juniper has decided to stop chasing a small slice of a stagnating market in which it is unwilling to invest to stay competitive,” writes John Burke, Principal Research Analyst, Nemertes Research.

Despite this parade of troubling items, the facts are that WANop continues to meet an existing – and, in fact, growing – need, although not without evolving to meet evolving requirements. After a disappointing Q1, the WANop market made a strong recovery in Q2 with double-digit growth, primarily driven by strong sales of virtual appliances.

While virtual appliances accounted for just 7% of total sales in the data center appliance market in Q2, they contributed 37% of the revenue growth, climbing 58% in the WAN optimization segment. Expectations are that the proliferation of virtualization and cloud computing will continue to drive this growth.

Accounting for close to a quarter of the WANop appliance market, including more than 10,000-plus customers, and with the overall market expected to expand tenfold between 2011 and 2016, Cisco has made it clear it won’t cede this segment to its competitors, including Blue Coat Systems, Riverbed and Silver Peak Systems.

The bottom line is that demand for WAN optimization is growing, especially at bigger companies, according to TechTarget, which reported an average of just 18 months between such upgrades for nearly 70% of companies with a total worth of at least $1 billion. “You know the phrase, ‘You can never be too rich or too thin’? Well, you can never have too much bandwidth or too little latency, so it’s an ever-escalating question of how we can get more through the same pipe and how we can compensate for [the limitations of] the speed of light,” Gartner Research vice president Joe Skorupa notes.

Image source: Flickr (Travis S.)