Wide area network optimization: WAN service providers vs. in-house deployments

To outsource your wide area network optimization or keep it in-house is a complex decision. Learn the benefits and drawbacks of both to help make your decision, in this last section of the e-Book, 'The Ultimate Guide to Gaining Control of the WAN.'

In part seven of the e-Book, The Ultimate Guide to Gaining Control of the WAN, learn the benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing your wide area network optimization to a wide area network (WAN) service provider, and decide whether deploying and managing your acceleration solution in-house is better than outsourcing it. Navigate the table of contents to read other sections of this e-Book or skip below to learn more about the pros and cons of wide area network optimization in-house or leaving it in the hands of a WAN service provider.

Table of contents
Part 1: Save WAN costs with branch office server consolidation
Part 2: How to accelerate encrypted traffic using WAN optimization
Part 3: Virtual desktop infrastructure problems solved by WAN optimization
Part 4: Using the WAN for telepresence, video conferencing
Part 5: Using WAN optimization for bandwidth management and monitoring
Part 6: Update network security architecture during server consolidation
Part 7: Wide area network optimization: Do it in-house, or use a WAN service provider?

With more and more critical applications running over the WAN, organizations must embark on WAN optimization deployments carefully. One of the first choices a WAN manager must make is whether to deploy wide area network optimization in-house or to outsource it to a third-party service provider. Today, only about 10% of IT organizations outsource the complex task of wide area network optimization to third parties like an Internet service provider, according to Forrester Research. But Forrester predicts that this percentage could jump to 30% over the next two years -- if those offering the services do the hands-on work necessary to provide the optimization that today’s networks need.

Learn more about the growth of wide area network optimization.

In-house equals more control

When Walter Weber, IT director of Charlotte, N.C.-based process automation company R.E. Mason Co., began looking into wide area network optimization strategies to boost speeds for his growing network of remote offices, he found little interest from service providers. His company’s branch offices use different service providers for WAN connectivity, and those providers would have had to partner with each other to deliver wide area network optimization.

R.E. Mason also maintains its own DNS and Web servers. Weber was more comfortable with optimizing the WAN on his own because he could keep more control of exactly how it was done, whether that meant a custom DNS configuration or specialized security protocols.

Rob Whiteley, a principal analyst and research director at Forrester, said the desire for such network control generally determines whether a company will consider outsourcing its wide area network optimization.

Whiteley said that some companies, regardless of size or industry, are happy to pass off the tricky business of managing optimization and caching techniques to whoever can deliver it.

“You have other companies that say, ’We view our network as a core asset, and we’re going to manage it whatever the size,’” he said.

Whiteley has spoken with one major national bank, for example, which had held tight to strict compliance regulations while stitching together the networks of one acquisition after another.

The bank said ripping and replacing the customizations that had been put in over the years would have been a nightmarish task, particularly at a time when banks are not eager to spend extra capital.

Benefits of hosted services

Still, for those without specialized needs, hosted wide area network optimization can bring a variety of benefits. Choosing a managed option is often the less expensive because service providers can take advantage of economies of scale, Whiteley said. But not all offerings are created equal.

The key today, he said, is the equipment. Hosted wide area network optimization without equipment on-site with the customer often delivers only marginal gains.

“A service provider can do [WAN optimization] as well as an enterprise or better if they’re willing to put equipment on every single customer premise,” Whiteley said.

The on-premise equipment is essential, he said, because other methods of optimization -- tweaking either the network or trying to centrally optimize information flow remotely -- just do not deliver the performance customers demand, even if some techniques, such as improved routing, do offer marginally better performance.

Outsourcing wide area network optimization can also help remove management headaches because network engineers can avoid having to juggle new classes of shifting variables, including adjusting settings each time a new networked application -- whether authorized or not -- is added.

“WAN optimization itself is a new technology, and people are nervous about new technologies,” said Steve Capozzi, manager of managed wide area network optimization services product marketing for Verizon Business. “Once people get into it, they realize it’s a lot more intense and involved than they realize.”

Verizon’s offering, which gives customers a choice between Juniper and Cisco optimization platforms, is also designed to work across networks, so even if customers use both Verizon and British Telecom WAN services, for example, they can still see wide area network optimization benefits globally.

View more WAN optimization resources

About the author:
Michael Morisy reports on a variety of topics for SearchNetworking.com, SearchUnifiedCommunications.com, SearchMobileComputing.com and SearchTelecom.com. He has previously written for Business 2.0, the New York Daily News, and a variety of other national and local publications.

This was last published in November 2010

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