The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

WAN optimization, Chinese Food, and Virtualized WOCs

Posted by riverbedtest on January 22, 2010

Chinese food
Selecting a WAN optimization vendor is a lot like choosing a Chinese restaurant to eat at.  We all have certain expectations about Chinese food; we know what it's supposed to taste like, and we all expect to enjoy the food that we order.  Every Chinese restaurant will claim to meet these expectations and deliver the best quality Chinese food.  But unfortunately, most of us have had at least a few disappointing experiences where the restaurant fails to deliver the quality and taste that we expect.  For myself, I am particularly wary of Chinese restaurants that advertise an "all-you-can-eat" lunch special for $4.99.

In a similar way when enterprises look for a WAN optimization solution, they have certain expectations around obtaining LAN-like performance over their WAN, 90% data reduction, 6-month ROI, and being able to centralize their application servers into their data centers.  Most WAN optimization vendors claim to deliver the same capabilities as the market-leading Riverbed solution, but for a cheaper price.  But the unfortunate reality is that cheaper WAN optimization products usually fail to meet these expectations, especially for larger deployments.  As with Chinese food, just about the only reliable way to make the right choice to get a reference from someone who has deployed that solution before you.  All too many of us have found out the hard way that the advertised $4.99 lunch special does not consistently lead to good or even adequate-quality Chinese food.

The San Francisco Bay Area where I live is crowded with Chinese restaurants; it's a very competitive market.  To differentiate themselves, some Chinese restaurants in my area offer delivery service.  You don't need to physically go to the restaurant to get their product–the food will be virtually delivered to you after you order it online or over the phone.  Would you order from a restaurant that offers a virtual delivery service?  Of course, that decision would depend on the quality of the product that they offer.  If I had a bad experience with a specific restaurant while dining-in, then it certainly wouldn't matter to me if they offered delivery service or not…there's no way I would order food from that restaurant again with or without the delivery service.

In a similar way, there has been some discussion about the benefits and convenience of virtualized WOC products, including in a Network World article by Jim Metzler.  Jim makes a good point about the advantages of having the vendor deliver the product to you in a software-only virtual package…you don't have to physically take delivery of WOC hardware in order to obtain the product and its benefits.  Riverbed understands the advantages of a virtual software WOC that runs on any brand of server hardware, and has already announced the future availability of a virtualized Steelhead product.

But a key point missing from Jim's article is that any virtualized WOC is only as good as the underlying product and technology.  If the original physical WOC product exhibits issues and problems when running in your network environment, then why would the outcome be any different when using the virtualized software version of that same product?  Just as I would not order using the deliver service from a Chinese restaurant where the food does not fit my pallet, enterprises should not purchase virtualized WOC products from vendors where the original physical WOC doesn't work for their environment.

2 Responses to “WAN optimization, Chinese Food, and Virtualized WOCs”

  1. I love Chinese food. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. i like italian cusine more than chinese. it has richer taste.

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