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What's the difference between WAN optimization and WAN acceleration?

Expert Howard Hooper compares and contrasts WAN optimization and WAN acceleration in this Ask the Expert response.

Are there any differences between WAN optimization and WAN acceleration?

WAN optimization and WAN acceleration are sometimes confused as being the same technology. Both WAN optimization and WAN acceleration -- more commonly known as "application acceleration" -- may ultimately have the same end goals in mind, including the following:

  • Improved network and resource utilization;
  • Better end user experience; and
  • Maximized network performance.

While these objectives may be the same, the methods used by WAN optimization vs. WAN acceleration can be very different.

WAN optimization generally provides a generic blanket or a higher-level optimization by focusing on network and transport layer protocols through the means of SSL session offloading, data deduplication/data redundancy elimination (DRE) -- as is the case with DRE used by the Cisco WAAS product line -- and TCP optimizations, which include Selective Acknowledgments , larger window and buffer sizes, and improvements on slow starts and the congestions mechanism.

Application acceleration tends to focus on the lower layers of the OSI model, such as the application layer, and can provide improvements to particular applications used over the WAN that may have not been designed for use outside of a LAN. For example, application acceleration removes excess chatter from file transfer protocols like Common Internet File System (CIFS) and  provides mechanisms such as Write-Behind or Read-Ahead, object caching, prepositioning and parallelization.

For more on WAN acceleration vs.WAN optimization:

  • Find out whether you should monitor networks or applications to ensure Quality of Experience.
  • Learn how WAN optimization is evolving in this webinar.


This was last published in August 2012

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