Like many vendors, Cisco is looking to secure a leading position in the WAN optimisation market as greater numbers of enterprises grapple with the challenges of branch office application performance, remote backup, and server consolidation.

So far, so good: In the 10 months since Cisco launched its Wide Area Applications Services (WAAS) suite, 1,000 customers have deployed the products.

WAAS combines Cisco’s wide-area file services (WAFS) and content distribution technologies with optimisation features to speed the performance of TCP-based applications running over the WAN. It’s available in different hardware form factors, including stand-alone appliances as well as modules that can be integrated into Cisco’s Integrated Services Router (ISR) series.

One thing Cisco has going for it is its bundled approach. Enterprises that are assessing the WAN optimisation and application acceleration market are looking to procure multiple capabilities in an integrated solution, according to Robin Gareiss, executive VP and senior founding partner of Nemertes Research.

“Increasingly, IT decision-makers want the option to integrate WAN optimisation and application acceleration into a single branch-office device,” Gareiss said. “Already, 17 percent of organisations are using all-in-one devices, and 55 percent are using WAN optimisation. Moving forward, they want devices to provide switching/routing, security, VoIP, optimisation and WAFS.”

Here’s what three early adopters had to say about Cisco’s WAAS suite:

“Before moving to Cisco WAAS, our bandwidth would spike to 100 percent during the day, but we've been able to decrease that to 40 percent,” said Steve Rains, an IT system director at Phoenix, Arizona-based Banner Health, which is using WAAS to speed application performance across 20 hospitals and other medical facilities.

“The product's transparency, which preserves our existing monitoring and security infrastructure, and centralised management with the ability to characterise the traffic according to days, months, traffic type, as well as effective throughput per application, have all been a real plus for us,” Rains said.

At Fulton Financial, it used to take an hour for users at its branch offices to print large loan application documents. The Pennsylvania financial holding company is using WAAS to slash its print response time by 75 to 80 percent and reduce bandwidth consumption to 30 percent of its 6Mbit/s link.

“Upgrading bandwidth was cost prohibitive, inefficient and non-scalable, and installing and managing local servers just for print jobs violates our server and application centralisation strategy,” said Barth Bailey, vice president of network infrastructure and security for Fulton Financial. “With Cisco WAAS, we've maintained our centralised and standardised IT infrastructure while ensuring LAN-like application performance for branch offices.”

Bissell Homecare, meanwhile, is using Cisco WAAS to speed data replication between its Michigan headquarters and its manufacturing facility in China. “It now takes roughly 20 to 30 minutes to replicate data changes across the WAN, compared to five to six hours before,” said Paul Babcock, manager of network and computer operations.

Has your WAN optimisation deployment yielded similar gains? If you’d like to share a success story, we’d like to hear it. As always, all comments are welcome.