There are two ways to look at the benefits of optimizing the bandwidth on your company’s wide area network, and it depends on how you spend your workday.
If you are in the CIO’s office and spend your time staying on top of the network, analyzing reports on its performance and making sure it all works smoothly so that everyone in the company can keep communicating, optimization is about performance. If you are in the CFO’s office and spend your time crunching numbers – the company’s revenue and spending figures – optimization is about cost savings.
This is the point I made in a recent interview with Ed Gubbins, the executive news editor over at Telephony magazine. He wrote this article about WAN optimization that included a look at Sprint’s WAN Acceleration approach. Truth is, WAN optimization really is two-sided in its ability to improve network performance and reduce costs. So the decision to implement it can be driven by whichever benefit means more to the enterprise at a given time.
As I’ve said before, if you aren’t using all of your network assets, you’re wasting money. Stuff those pipes full – whether they are T1s, wireless links, or anything else you’re paying for. If you use them wisely, you may be able to cut your needs down to one link instead of two (there’s a 50 percent cost savings right there), or prevent your company from having to move up to a second link. Or even better, use the technologies to manage your traffic flows and fire the ILEC altogether by using wireless transport for your business. I see this happen every day (especially in retail environments) and the cost savings are substantial. And for the non-believers - of course wireless transport works - it wouldn’t be used if it didn’t. That is table stakes.
How do you do that? The best way is to make sure that the traffic you’re carrying on your network is only what you want to be there. You don’t want spam. You don’t want YouTube or Hulu videos, or tune swapping, or content from the dark corners of the Internet. Not only are these things huge wastes of time for employees, but they can also be objectionable and violations of company policies (adding a 3rd concern, which would be HR). So you use a security-focused WAN optimization solution to control and close the door to that traffic, which preserves bandwidth for legitimate business uses. Other WAN optimization methods, such as caching, application prioritization, and traffic compression, can also be used to make sure that every bit of your pipe is put to good use.
A key point of that Telephony article was that the demand for WAN optimization services is strong and growing quickly – 29 percent globally in 2008. While large companies have led the way over the past few years, the trends are interesting. First, we are seeing a deep integration of these technologies in a company’s WAN / LAN environment. In other words, WAN optimization is not a stand alone service, but a key feature of the WAN. Second, WAN optimization is being used by everyone and is now down-market, as even medium-sized companies see what more efficient networks can do for them, both in productivity and cost savings.