Expand CTO: WAN optimization getting smarter

Efi Gatmor discusses the companies plan to meet future opportunities

WAN optimization is topping minds of enterprise IT managers as they look to centralize operations and consolidate data centers. But by serving applications to remote offices from a central location, they also risk degrading application performance over WAN links and cutting into employee productivity.

Companies such as Expand Networks, which entered the market in 1999 and was recently recognized as a market leader by research firm Gartner, have long been touting the benefits of managing bandwidth and sending packets over wide-area links. Yet with the emergence of myriad innovative start-ups and Cisco's re-entry into the market over the past year, veterans like Expand realize they have to evolve their technology to stay ahead of the pack.

Expand CTO Efi Gatmor recently discussed with Network World Senior Editor Denise Dubie his take on the current market and how Expand will pump up its technology to meet future opportunities.

WAN optimization is a hot topic lately. Where does Expand Networks and its Compass technology and Accelerator appliances fit in today's market?

Our unique offering is still in our ability to understand not only the application level and the application process but also the network level. We can provide capabilities such as transparency, network-awareness and quality of service, which is still a must as part of an infrastructure for understanding and being application-aware. We look at the application itself and the business needs and the network infrastructure and the IT needs to see how both work together and how we can align those needs and make sure from low level to high level everything is working as smoothly as possible.

What applications or network services have emerged of late that WAN optimization vendors must address now?

We've identified data- and voice-convergence projects in enterprise organizations as a critical part of the WAN optimization process going forward. VOIP is one of the top project deployments in 2007 and 2008 for customers looking to put it in all their remote branch offices and getting rid of old PBX boxes.

Without using quality of service, optimization and other techniques, you cannot ensure that the quality of voice and multimedia applications will be preserved. At the same time, you need to also be able to provide all the benefits for the data applications. Without tackling all those requirements, users will fail in deploying VOIP in 2007.

The requirement here for us is to use advanced features and capabilities of joining voice and data together, but also optimizing the performance of both and reducing costs. End users don't always understand how challenging it is to maintain the quality of voice, while also maintaining the bandwidth for business-critical applications. VOIP optimization is something that we actually will enhance even more.

Gartner and others have identified the need for WAN optimization and application-acceleration vendors to add client-side software to their product suites -- to enable mobile and teleworkers to tap the benefits of such technologies. Where is Expand on that front?

We have identified the three places where we need to participate when it comes to optimizing applications over the WAN. They are the performance of servers in the data center -- what research groups call application delivery -- WAN optimization itself and also client WAN optimization. All of those large consolidated data centers require application delivery as part of performance of the application. And they need WAN optimization for many remote branches. But now that you have an increasing number of road warriors, telecommuters and mobile users, customers require a client-based solution to hook into the same environments. We are planning to introduce client technology as part of the roadmap for 2007. It will not be complete in Compass on Day 1, but gradually we plan to add more capabilities to that and make it part of Compass, integrated with our centralized management and also with our servers in the data center.

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