WAN Optimisation Day Five: The Little Guys

Can WAN Optimisation help small business too? Ian Yates has the answers in the last part of our feature.

WAN optimisation is available today for enterprise customers, but what about the little guys, the small business users? Quite often, a small business will consist of 100 staff, but spread out over five branches. Can they afford this technology? "The Riverbed range now starts with four boxes at the very low end which suits offices of up to five people, and then through licence upgrades, you can take that same piece of hardware to expand up to an office of say 30 odd people," says Riverbed's Dixon. "So you can buy a very, very low end unit for a very small office, and then with licence upgrades, allow it to accommodate for growth in that office."

And for that solo salesperson who needs to connect back to head office securely, and with decent response times? "Within the first half of this year, we're releasing a single-client version," says Dixon. "The beauty is that the software is out now, the single-client version is exactly the same software that exists on all our other appliances, right up to the main data centre models. So everything will coexist very happily together, and it means that user if they are for instance working from a hotel room or working from home, when they plug into the office remotely, they're still going to get lots of nice connectivity through the entire network."

For many years Citrix has specialised in making the remote user feel almost as wanted as the office-bound worker, so the company is well-situated to take advantage of the new focus on WAN optimisation. "Traditionally WAN optimisation is done between two solid state devices, switches of some kind," says Les Howarth of Citrix. "There are lots of ports, and lots of bandwidth, and it has a huge amount of cache memory. Then you've got a branch machine which is smaller with less ports, and less memory, but it's good for anything for five users, and works up to 500."

"The problem you've got at the branch, however, is even that solution might be a bit expensive," says Howarth. "If you've got a knowledge worker, or you've got a sales rep on the road, an appliance isn't going to work. We've turned that appliance into a software element, and we're going to charge, I think, about $150 to stick it on a laptop. We're back to the old fashioned three tiered architecture as far as I can see. You've got a single user solution with the client software. You've got a branch office solution, and you've got a big data centre solution at the top end."

In fact, if you think about it, the vast number of deployments in the future are probably going to be for single users, so those vendors with solutions to suit the SME market are also going to curry favour with the enterprise market. "I think it is going to revolutionise the market, and we're the first to market with it," calims Howarth. "But I'm sure the others are doing the same thing, if it makes sense for us, I'm sure other vendors will do it too."

Like most solutions that are bleeding obvious, they're only bleeding obvious after somebody actually does it. The WAN optimisation market is now mature enough that your average switched on enterprise knows what's happening, they're already into it and they've already got an appliance or two, and they're looking around for other appliances. It's the SME market that desperately needs this stuff. "They do," agrees Howarth. "And they can solve it either way. They might go for our single-client solution, which they can afford, or they might combine the two. You might want to optimise between branches and still use the single-client as well."

Clearly, there's no longer any excuse for enduring clogged pipes. Call the plumber today and get your WAN traffic moving at full speed, and put that order for more bandwidth back in the top drawer for a little while longer.

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