The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

Don’t Make Important Choices in a Vacuum!

Posted by riverbedtest on February 4, 2011

ImagesCAWQ8OPZ Let's face it, choosing a WAN optimization product from the various vendor offerings can be confusing and difficult, because all of the vendors seem to say the same things about their products.  They all make similar-sounding claims about fast LAN-like performance, server consolidation, cost savings, etc.  And if what they all were saying were true, then it would be rather a simple matter to just choose a vendor based on lowest price, since supposedly every vendor's product pretty much does the same thing.

And while that is precisely what many vendors would have you believe, the truth is that there are very significant differences among the various vendor offerings in the WAN optimization market.  Tragically, numerous customers have found that out the hard way, making the mistake of purchasing a WAN optimization product that didn't work or scale for their network.

A lab test or live proof-of-concept (POC) may help. A test or POC allows customers to get familiar with the look and feel of each product they are evaluating.  But there are limitations to what a lab test or POC can reveal about a product.  Just about every WAN optimization product will work fine in a protected, limited-scale deployment where they are not fully-exposed to WAN disruptions, heavy data center traffic loads, and other nasty things that inevitably happen in a live production network.  It's a huge mistake to assume that just because a particular vendor product works adequately when deployed to 2 or 3 sites in a POC, that it will also work fine when deployed to 20 or 30 sites.

When considering a large enterprise-scale deployment of WAN optimization devices, the most important step in the evaluation process is talking to another customer with a similar-sized network who has also deployed products from the vendor under consideration.  There simply is no substitute for that.

Checking references involves more than listening to vague anecdotal accounts of "success" by the vendor's sales rep.  Rather, it's very important to obtain the contact info of another customer who has deployed and used the vendor's WAN optimization products, and to have a confidential one-on-one conversation with that other customer.  When talking with that customer, ask about specifics such as the number and types of applications being optimized by the deployed products, number of users and locations in the customer's network,  and overall experience from using that vendor's products.  Make sure that the customer has a similarly complex network as your own, uses the same type of applications, and has deployed a similar number of devices that you anticipate deploying in your own network.

At Riverbed we expect and welcome any such requests for references.  With an installed base of over 12,000 customers, we have numerous Riverbed customers who would be happy to relay their experiences to you.  Unfortunately, that is not true for all vendors in this space.

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