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Interop: Applications And Networks Need to Unite

Interop

LAS VEGAS -- WAN optimization and acceleration technologies have been available for a few years, but where are they going and what still needs to be done?

Before a capacity crowd at Interop, a panel of experts from Riverbed Technology (NASDAQ: RVBD), Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO), Radware (NASDAQ: RDWR) and Strangeloop Networks disagreed on the future of application delivery.

But the key message was unanimous: Networks and applications need to get along.

"The future of application delivery in our world is that we're trying to bring networks and the applications together in terms of people and technology," Kent Alstad, Strangeloop's CTO and co-founder, told the audience.

Alstad said traditional caching methods of accelerating applications will continue to be challenged by dynamic applications that are difficult to debug and understand. As a result, the need to collaborate between networking and application people is paramount.

"If you don't understand your apps, how will you know what acceleration technique you need and what will work," he said.

Eric Wolford, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Riverbed Technology, was quick to note where application acceleration technologies currently sit on the analysts' radar screen.

Wolford said industry analyst Gartner's "Hype Cycle" -- a chart detailing overenthusiasm for technology adoption -- indicates that application acceleration has now passed the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" and the "Trough of Disillusionment."

"Now application acceleration is on the Slope of Enlightenment," Wolford said to laughter among the audience.

He said he sees the emerging concept of a joined application and data services layer ultimately being added to network topology. On that layer, the focus is on content users, connection, sessions and transactions -- instead of the traditional network metric of packets and latency.

Today, vendors are able to provide acceleration to a lot of different applications, he said -- but it's not necessarily a complete list and it's not as accelerated as it ultimately may become.

Mark Weiner, director of data center solutions at Cisco, said he sees mobility, software as a service -- also known as SaaS -- rich Internet applications and service-oriented architecture (SOA) continuing to drive demand and growth for acceleration technologies.

Weiner also said he believes the need for increased visibility in network traffic will continue to evolve in the application delivery market.

"Where are the problems? What are the challenges?" Weiner said. "And where do I invest so that I can show the ROI of the investment?"

But Weiner was skeptical about the prospects of some other developments in application acceleration -- at least during in the next 24 months. For instance, there will not be a one-stop box for application delivery, he said, arguing that different acceleration technologies fit into different parts of the network.

[cob:Special_Report]Weiner also does not see applications controlling the network.

"Our vote is the network will empower the application," Weiner said.

In terms of the users and buyers of acceleration technology, Weiner also does not expect there to be any single owner within a given enterprise for application delivery technology, since it crosses many traditional IT jurisdictions.

He also hinted at where Cisco sees acceleration shaping up in response to an audience question about the value of stand-alone application acceleration like the many products showcased on the Interop show floor.

Weiner said Cisco itself is moving in the direction of bypassing such offerings by embedding acceleration directly into the fabric of the network itself -- with acceleration modules available for its routers.

Weiner also equated the issue with an earlier, important development.

"Look at firewalls; they were stand-alone in the beginning," he said. "Today, many routers are sold with integrated firewall. But that was a 10-year transition from stand-alone hardware."