The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

References–the critical step in evaluating WDS solutions

Posted by riverbedtest on June 12, 2008

Two months ago, I was fed up with my Treo phone.  It was constantly rebooting and crashing, sometimes even during the middle of a call.  So at that point I decided I needed a new phone, but I didn’t know what phone to get.  I asked my colleagues, friends, and business acquaintances about their phones, and how much they liked or disliked their phones.   The people I talked to had no motive for lying to me, so the information I got was accurate.  Eventually, after carefully evaluating all the feedback, I settled on a Blackberry 8830, and I must say I’ve been extremely happy with it.  I haven’t experienced a single crash with my new phone.

I follow pretty much the same process whenever I make a major purchase, whether it be a new car, GPS device, or piano teacher for my daughter.  Nothing can substitute for the information that comes in a confidential one-on-one consultation.  There is no ulterior motive involved, no marketing hype, no deception, just the downright truth, when you can talk to a person who owns and has used the product before.   The few times I’ve deviated from this process have been moments I have regretted.

Tragically, in the hypercompetitive WDS market, there is an enormous amont of hype and false information circulated by some vendors.  Each vendor has a lot at stake.  Smaller vendors have nothing to lose; these startups facing dwindling cash reserves resort to desperate measures, and are willing to say anything to draw attention to themselves.  On the other hand larger vendors feel they are entitled to win the deal, and they will talk as if they own the WAN optimization market, regardless of the actual effectiveness or viability of their WDS products.  It can be difficult to filter out the hype and misinformation, until and unless you talk to an actual customer who has used the product first-hand. 

If you are contemplating a large investment in a WDS solution, my advice is to talk to a reference for each WDS vendor solution that you are evaluating.  By large investment, I’m talking about a purchase of a WDS solution that will be deployed to more than a dozen sites. Each reference must be that of another customer with a comparable environment to your own.  If you are contemplating a large purchase of 200 WDS devices, then each vendor you are evaluating should be able to produce a customer reference who has deployed more than 200 of their devices.  If you have 50 sites, then you should talk to a customer reference who has deployed the vendor’s WDS solution to 50 or more sites.  It only makes sense that the vendor should be able to furnish such a reference…if their products indeed work as the vendor claims.

Don’t accept name-dropping, glossed up marketing case study brochures, or vague 3rd-person anectodal accounts.  Talk directly to the source–the customer reference who has actually deployed–or attempted to deploy–the product.  Drill down on details, about how many sites are operational, which applications have been accelerated, and would they use the same vendor if they had to do it all over again. That’s my best advice for filtering out the misinformation. 

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