Exinda has proposed a new open standard for integrating WAN tools.

Unified Performance Management (UPM) will help optimisation, application acceleration, application visibility and application response-time monitoring tools to interoperate, opening the way for single-purpose products from different vendors that work together, said Con Nikolouzakis, Exinda's chief executive officer.

Exinda is up against a consolidating market. As businesses began to struggle with poor network application performance, a range of appliances have appeared to speed things up. Big players including Cisco are now moving in however, aiming to make such tools just one more set of features on a router. Exinda says it has a technology edge over bigger players. Its technology is 18 to 24 months ahead of Cisco's, and the company will keep investing to keep in front, he said.

WAN optimisation and application acceleration are intended to make better use of limited bandwidth and eliminate bottlenecks that slow down data exchange across a WAN. Exinda combines these with tools that show how applications are operating and how long it takes users to finish tasks. The combination allows Exinda's appliance to apply the right mechanisms when they're needed, Nikolouzakis said. It also gives IT administrators evidence, beyond anecdotal reports, that their solutions are working.

Demand for better application response is growing fast as more employees work in branch offices and on the road, said IDC analyst Cindy Borovick. The market is consolidating, but there is still room for smaller vendors like Exinda, she said.

UPM is an open standard, now in its first version, that will continue to evolve, Nokolouzakis said. Exinda aims to bring it in to a standards body such as the IETF or IEEE. Nokolouzakis drew an analogy to open standards for security, such as IPSec. When vendors first started using IPSec, their implementations didn't work together, and it took an open standard to solve the problem. Likewise, security functions such as firewall, VPN and virus protection are now being combined in unified systems, he said.