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Questions to ask WAN optimization controller vendors

To find the right WAN optimization controllers, you need to narrow down the field. This list of questions will help you identify the differences in WAN optimization products.

Evaluating WAN optimization controllers (WOCs) prior to purchase is critical because simply reading a guide like this one can't answer the fundamental question of "How much will this product improve the performance of my network and my applications?" The only way to answer that question is to test the product either in the actual production environment or in an environment that is a very good simulation of the production environment.

It is somewhat challenging to distinguish WAN optimization products based on the functionality that they provide. That's partly because most vendors claim to have the best-performing, easiest-to-use solutions in the industry. There are some specific questions you can ask, however, to help distinguish at least some of the differences in the products provided by the WOC vendors.

  • Does the WAN optimization controller provider offer a remote client? A virtualized branch office solution?
  • How well do the WOCs perform relative to optimizing traffic between disparate data centers? Between branch offices and data centers? Between remote users and one or more data centers?
  • Is the WAN optimization controller certified with key vendors such as EMC or NetApp?
  • At what layer of the OSI protocol stack does the WOC function? Layer 3? Layer 4? Layer 7?
  • Does the deployment of the WAN optimization controller break anything (such as management or security)?
  • Is all of the functionality available from a single device, or are multiple devices required?
  • How well does the WAN optimization controller integrate optimization and security?
  • How well does the WOC optimize key applications such as Citrix, Common Internet File System (CIFS), and SAP?
  • How well does the WOC interoperate with Microsoft products?
  • Does the WAN optimization controller optimize non-TCP protocols?
  • How does the WOC interoperate with QoS mechanisms from other devices?
  • Does the WOC function on a link-by-link basis or on system-wide basis?

For more, read all the sections in our guide:

About the author:
Dr. Jim Metzler, principal at Ashton Metzler and Associates, is a widely recognized authority on network technology and its business applications. In more than 28 years of experience, Jim has helped numerous vendors refine product and service strategies and has helped enterprises evolve network infrastructures. He has directed and conducted market research at a major industry analyst firm and run a consulting firm. Jim holds a Ph.D. in numerical analysis from Boston University. He is co-author of the book Layer 3 Switching: A Guide for IT Professionals (Prentice Hall).

This was last published in February 2010

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