The nature of WAN optimisation deployment is going through a period of significant change, and this is having a noticeable impact upon the channel. So what are the changes, and how are they impacting the role of Channel players? Béatrice Piquer-Durand, VP Marketing, Ipanema Technologies, shares her thoughts with Comms Business here.
Beyond WAN optimisation, customers need application visibility and control to guarantee the performances of business critical applications
WAN optimisation was first pioneered 10-12 years ago, as companies needed to improve the speed at which they could transfer data across wide area network links. At that time, bandwidth costs were high. The primary objective of WAN optimisation deployments was to accelerate network traffic, in order to defer the need for a WAN upgrade, thereby reducing network costs. A typical example would be caching, accelerating and compressing a regular data back-up between a remote location and a data centre across a single network link.
Things have changed a lot in ten years; today’s WAN costs have dropped dramatically, and bandwidth is far more readily available. At the same time, economic challenges have meant that IT has been called upon to accelerate and maximize business productivity and efficiency which in turn has created more complexity for the network. Today it is common place for critical applications such as unified communications and a wealth of SaaS applications to be hosted in the cloud and for organisations to deploy hybrid MPLS / Internet networks. So challenge has fundamentally shifted away from deploying WAN optimisation technology to protecting business critical applications against recreational and non-critical applications.
That’s why we believe that WAN Optimisation as it was originally conceived (point-to-point acceleration and compression) can arguably be viewed as drawing to the end of its life. Not because the principles and technologies are no longer useful (although the value of simple acceleration is now a question mark), but because market needs have dramatically changed and the increasingly complex nature of IT requires dynamic application performance based on critical business applications. Today the category could best be described as ‘application performance guarantee’.
An opportunity for the channel to be more influential
Typically, resellers used to go in and check a problem part of their customer’s network (e.g. remote file backup), and they might put in a box to accelerate traffic at both ends. This sort of implementation has run its course, because it’s no longer about moving data more quickly, it’s about being able to have a view across the entire network and range of applications.
While there are still a number of channel players who are looking to go in and offer tactical WAN optimisation support to clients, this is no longer the most viable method in an increasingly competitive market. Instead, the channel needs to be thinking about how the customer demand is changing, and what’s driving that change.
We are increasingly seeing the proliferation of applications, and this in turn is making the network far less predictable and far more complex. CIOs are losing control. And of course the more complex the network, the harder it is to sort out issues with simple acceleration. This means enterprises are requiring a different type of insight from their channel partners; they need absolute oversight in terms of what’s running over their network, visibility over how the applications are performing so that they can deliver performance in all circumstances regardless of the complexity, and to do so with less budget. This is a key customer demand.
So how can channel players adapt?
There needs to be a concerted effort to up-skill their teams, and create lasting and meaningful relationships with the application owners within the business, alongside the IT team. The application owners may have been traditionally side-lined, with the focus more on liaising with the network manager, but this is no longer the case. Application owners are feeling the pinch, and they are under pressure to have more strategic oversight within their areas of the business. They have to align IT with business lines and support business objectives with innovation. For example, if you’re the Head of Marketing within a company and the CRM system isn’t working, then it may be an ‘IT issue’, but you can be sure the marketing function will suffer as a result, and be forced to face up to the repercussions.
There is an opportunity for the channel to broaden their contacts and their approach within their customer base, and develop relationships which puts them in the position of leading the alignment between changing business requirements and IT strategies and the corresponding lines of business and the IT department. This will help the channel to be more influential at a more strategic level, and gain better depth of understanding in terms of overall network set-up. Following on from this, providing simple application SLAs, proactively reducing the ‘meantime to innocence’, and helping the organisation in the trade-off between reduced IT budgets and increased challenges, will all enhance the channel’s ability to be seen as a bonafide business partner.