The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

Five guidelines for evaluating WAN optimization products

Posted by riverbedtest on October 8, 2010

Care and due diligence is a part of evaluating any IT product, and it's especially important in this difficult economic environment where every investment dollar must count.  But in the WAN optimization market, effective due diligence can be a perplexing challenge, because it seems all the different vendors are saying the same things about their products!

The following are some suggestions on how to differentiate the various vendor offerings.  These suggestions are based on the experiences I've had interacting with numerous customers who have successfully navigated the evaluation process, and are now extremely happy with the results they've received from their selected WAN optimization products:

1)  The cheapest product is not necessarily the best deal — Remember the adage that you get what you pay for.  What customers should be looking for instead is the return on investment (ROI) for a given offering.  The fact is that the cheapest, lowest-priced product does not necessarily provide the best ROI.  When a given vendor is too eager to offer a lower price than competitive vendors (and in some cases, for free!), more likely than not there's a hidden reason for that cheap price. 

2)  For large-scale deployments, avoid placing too much weight on limited-scale lab tests or proof-of-concept (POC) tests – it's natural for any customer to want to "test-drive" the product before purchasing it.  And certainly a lab test and/or POC should be a part of the evaluation process when purchasing WAN optimization.  However, it's vitally important that these tests be conducted with the knowledge that there are a number of issues that will not be exposed or observed in a limited-scale test.  One example of such an issue is the per-peer data store architecture used in Cisco WAAS and most other WAN optimization products.  The bottom line is that a limited-scale lab test or POC will provide limited insight about the product's ability to scale.  And scalability is a very important consideration if you have a large network with a considerable number of users.

3)  Avoid the temptation to compare a vendor's product roadmap to Riverbed's existing product capabities — It's no secret that the Riverbed Steelhead offering is more sophisticated and feature-packed when compared to offerings from any other vendor in the WAN optimization market.  And when confronted about the features and capabilities that are missing from their products, competitive vendors invariably will claim that the missing features are on their product roadmap and will be available "soon."  But upon closer examination you will find that most competitive vendors have failed to execute on their product roadmap plans over the past few years, and that raises questions about whether they will be able to execute on them in the future.  The bottom line is that competitive products should be compared by evaluating their existing and proven features and capabilities, and not by listening to vendor promises of future product plans that may or may not come true.

4)  Don't just assume that WAN optimization is a commodity market — It would be nice if selecting a WAN optimization vendor were as easy as deciding on which station to fill up your automobile's gas tank.  But WAN optimization is a highly-differentiated market, and the various vendor offerings are not the same.   Purchasing from the first vendor to walk in the door or from your default network equipment vendor can turn out to be a mistake that will lead to months or years of headaches. 

5)  Always speak to the vendor's existing WAN optimization customers — The various WAN optimization vendors all tend to say the same things about their products, but that's not necessarily the case about each vendor's respective customers.  The most important guideline for evaluating WAN optimization products is to talk confidentially to existing customers of each vendor you are evaluating. You will be startled by what you find.  Don't accept name-dropping or vague hints at "successful" deployments with 1000 remote sites–make sure you actually reach out and have that one-on-one conversation with an existing customer.  And in order to be a reliable reference, that customer must have deployed the vendor's WAN optimization products in a similar network environment to your own, with applications and network size (a similar number of users and locations) that approximate your own network.  At Riverbed, we're comfortable when prospective customers speak with our existing customers; a recent survey we did on Riverbed customers indicated an overall satisfaction rating of 8.41 out of 10 (with 10 being the most satisfied).


2 Responses to “Five guidelines for evaluating WAN optimization products”

  1. brian said

    Thank you very much for the post. I enjoyed it.
    And its quite informative too. Anyway,
    all posts in are definitely attractive,
    informative and marvellous!

  2. It was a pleasure visiting your blog site. I found it very interesting

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: