A tech-support call starts it all. Why is my application running slow? What happened to my spreadsheet data? Is HQ using a 56K modem to handle traffic for my branch office - again? The number of calls suddenly increases, and network analysis reveals unforeseen usage spikes at a new marketing location. The dream of data-centre consolidation turns into a nightmare.

IT managers at large companies with many branch offices or retail locations increasingly are relying on WAN optimisation to address slow application performance over sagging, slow and over-used networks. Yet, because these same companies are so distributed, implementing a comprehensive strategy to resolve network congestion issues isn't easy. In addition, upgrading switches and carrier lines can be prohibitively expensive.

The emerging answer

Enter managed WAN-optimisation services. A host of providers including AT&T, BT Global Services and Verizon Business have beefed up their managed-services portfolios with options for boosting application performance over their networks.

The services perform the same duties as a WAN-optimisation appliance from such companies as Citrix Systems, Riverbed Technology or Silver Peak Systems, yet offload the installation, configuration and maintenance chores to the hosted provider. Managed WAN-optimisation services address unresponsive applications, slow transmissions and network congestion; more and more they also are providing relief for companies that don't have a dedicated network-optimisation staff or the time to tweak applications for improved performance.

Like its hardware-based alternative, a managed WAN-optimisation service can help a company avoid bandwidth upgrades. Such was the case at Denso Thermal Systems, an Italian-headquartered automotive parts maker that avoided massive upgrades at 14 sites in three countries by using a WAN-optimisation service from Orange Business Services. Orange's Business Acceleration suite offers analysis, through which Denso established optimisation priorities for mission-critical applications, plus management and optimisation through data compression, traffic-shaping and other techniques.

"We thought we would need to upgrade sites in order to improve application performance," says Silvio Bonetto, IT director at Denso. "Instead, traffic is optimised though the Orange Business Acceleration offering."

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