WAN optimisation breaks current methods of measuring application performance, claimed NetQoS, as it announced a deal with Cisco to develop software that provides a way around the problem.

The problem arises because WAN acceleration boxes typically act as proxies, intercepting network requests and responding to them locally. The result is a falsely optimistic view of network response, whether it's measured actively or passively, said Steve Fulton, senior director of strategic alliances at NetQoS, which opened a European office earlier this year.

To get around this, the two companies have developed software which will be available as a free upgrade for Cisco's WAAS (wide area application services) devices and the NetQoS SuperAgent application. This exports TCP header data from WAAS in a format that SuperAgent understands, allowing it to report the application's real performance.

Fulton said that the software was developed following customer requests - but only for Cisco, even though he admitted that NetQoS also has customers using Packeteer and Ipanema optimisation gear, for example.

"We have code on every Cisco WAAS device that sends information from each segment of the connection, so we can see the response time both before and after optimisation," he said.

"It was the first time our normal performance measurement methods hadn't worked," he added. "What we've done is not trivial - you need the TCP data itself, pre- and port-optimisation. Then the real challenge is reporting this in a meaningful way."

The exclusive tie-up with Cisco - which is the new kid on the block when it comes to WAN optimisation - also covers joint sales and marketing, and will get NetQoS in front of potential customers that it couldn't previously have reached, Fulton said.

Several other WAN optimisation vendors already include performance reporting features within their management software, so isn't NetQoS merely helping Cisco to catch up with those others? Not so, claimed Fulton.

"What the other WAN optimisation vendors do with reporting just scratches the surface of what we do," he argued.

He pointed out to how fast Cisco's sales have grown in this area, adding that as the market shifts from applying this technology tactically to implementing it strategically, Cisco is where NetQoS wants to be.

"We focus on the large enterprise and Cisco is strong there," he said. "WAN optimisation hasn't seen standardisation yet, and we are helping Cisco sell it as infrastructure, not tactical. We are seeing an evolution where companies are going from a Band-Aid approach to much wider deployment."