I’m very excited and proud to announce that Gartner has placed Cisco into the Leaders position in the Magic Quadrant for WAN Optimization. This accomplishment reflects the substantial progress Cisco has made in developing and executing on its vision for the Cisco Intelligent WAN (IWAN) with Cisco Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) over the past three years – a record that clearly demonstrates Cisco’s ability to compete in this space.

Magic Quadrant for WAN Optimization

gartner blog pic

Source: Gartner (March 2015)

The timing couldn’t be better

The analyst research and press coverage tells us loud and clear that the WAN is hotter than ever, and for good reason: mobility, cloud and the digitization of the enterprise are changing how we consume and deliver applications. Even the applications themselves are changing, as we’ve seen with the rise of a whole new class of bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive mobile apps and video.

New trends have changed the game for the WAN

At one time, we in the WAN arena focused strictly on how to get packets across a static pipe, quickly and efficiently. Now, that ‘pipe’ is becoming a highly dynamic WAN fabric composed of multiple links. Users and applications are everywhere.  By 2018, Gartner predicts SaaS will become the dominant model for consuming application functionality for approximately 80% of all organizations.[1] And to compound the challenge, the Internet of Things (IoT) is coming to join the party – we estimate up to 50 billion connected things by 2020. Trying to handle these challenges with traditional techniques, tools, and processes just won’t cut it.

The next generation of the WAN will need to support a dynamic network, one that shifts from a focus on getting the most out of a single network pipe to one that manages application flows across a sophisticated multi-link WAN fabric to accommodate different applications with different needs accessed on an ever-growing number of mobile devices and connected things.

It’s Not Always About Speed

One analogy I like to use as motivation for an Intelligent WAN is a shipping department. Some packages are urgent and need next day air. Other packages are less urgent, or would cost too much to ship by air, go by ground. In today’s world with all the shipping options that exist, no one would imagine running a shipping department that only had next day air, and yet, that is how most companies have been running their WAN.

In reality, it’s even worse.  In addition to every package being next day air, they all get sent back to headquarters before going on to their actual destination, even if it’s just across town from the shipper. Extending this a bit further, you can imagine a service whereby someone is able to get more stuff into the same size shipment (i.e., WAN optimization). Useful and valuable for sure, but what is clearly apparent is that the bigger opportunity lies in moving to a multi-modal transport model, and the same is true for the WAN – a reality echoed in recent guidance from Gartner, who states hybrid will be the new normal for Next Generation Enterprise WANs.

What does a dynamic hybrid WAN do?

A dynamic hybrid WAN can continuously monitor the various links between sites and use knowledge of the applications – along with defined user policy – to direct application flows over the link best suited for that traffic. It ensures optimal usage of the bandwidth available across multiple links (including MPLS, DSL, 3G/4G/LTE, and more), ensures application experience for mission critical tasks, and provides resiliency in case of failure in any part of the network including the Service Provider.

Cisco has made several advancements over the last year to help customers enable a dynamic hybrid WAN.

  • Performance Routing (PfR) V3 complements all the application acceleration and WAN offload of Cisco WAAS by then selecting the best path based on metrics that very few vendors can provide (jitter, latency, packet loss), and easily scales across 2000 sites with pre-defined templates for application best practices.
  • Cisco WAAS with Akamai offers new levels of Web and mobile acceleration unlike any other vendor in the industry. We have taken Akamai’s platform that has solved the physical problem of degradation of application performance caused by distance between the user and applications, and have extended their intelligent caching to the branch office where most business face severe bandwidth constraints.
  • Cisco ISR 4000 includes an award-winning architecture designed from the ground up to deliver on the intelligent WAN vision, including running the full-suite of Cisco WAAS services natively on the platform with dedicated resources. This dramatically simplifies deployment and reduces branch operational complexity.


I plan to follow up this blog with a deeper dive into Cisco’s application optimization strategy. But if you’d like to get a preview, check out our white paper: “Cisco IWAN Application Optimization.

It’s been a journey to navigate changes in the enterprise, and the Cisco team is appreciative of the partnership we have had with customers to evolve Cisco WAAS into the world-class solution it is today. The recognition from the industry, most recently from Gartner, makes it even more exciting for those of us who cover the WAN space.

[1] Gartner Report: Forecast Overview: Public Cloud Services, Worldwide, 2014 Update, Ed Anderson, September 2014 (G00261926)