WAN Op = NoOp : Part one

This series of posts proposes the theory that the WAN Optimization industry is being disrupted by emerging trends in network protocols, security, applications, and WAN bandwidth pricing and broadband availably providing an opportunity for a new generation of players to rise. 

In computer science, a NOP or NOOP (short for No Operation) is an assembly language instruction, sequence of computer programming language statements, or computer protocol command that effectively does nothing at all.

In the last decade WAN Optimization, or WAN Op for short, has emerged as a multi-billion dollar a year business. Its evolution created major companies that were unheard of even a decade ago. These companies were able to innovate and establish the WAN Op solution as a commonplace component in many corporate and government networks alongside integrated service routers and firewalls. The market gorilla is Riverbed, but other major players are Blue Coat, Silverpeak, Cisco, Citrix and others. Recently, things seem to be changing in the world of WAN Op and not for the better. This article discuses events and trends that show that the because of growing trends, network technology and the underlying economics WAN optimization’s utility to the enterprise network is being diminished significantly over time. Said succinctly, WAN op is no longer as optimal as it once was and its future is murky.

The world is moving WANOP to being NOOP.

The term WAN Optimization is actually somewhat misleading. Traditional WAN optimization appliances are actually more justified being called server network optimization appliances. The WAN Op appliances don’t do anything very particular to wide area networks. What they do provide is better performance when accessing servers across high latency, high cost networks for some particular applications. They are ideal at providing their benefit to low priority, data heavy, relatively time insensitive bulk traffic. For example, unencrypted file server access and email. Typically WAN networks are high latency and high cost, so WAN op has value for them, but the actual appliances and their function protocols are pretty agnostic to the actual WAN itself. The appliances typically don’t directly attach to the wide area network but use intermediate routers or firewalls to access to downstream wide area network. That said, the term WAN Op has been used for a good while now, so no need to dally in semantics.

How do they do their magic? WAN op provides two areas of significant benefit to applications that are accessed across a network. Benefit one is in the appliances ability to terminate applications that are not very WAN friendly. In particular, the key value was the ability to mitigate a pretty nasty limitation in Microsoft’s older operating systems, what we refer to below as “The glitch.”  The other is WAN Op’s ability to reduce the amount of data that needs to transferred, what we refer to in the next blog as “The Data”.

More to Come…

Categories: Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN)


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