In yet another sign that growing revenues are reshaping the vendor outlook in the network management sector, Gartner recently named vendor Silver Peak one of the leaders in its magic quadrant for the WAN optimisation market.

Gartner cited Silver Peak's expanded partnerships with EMC, Hitachi, Dell and HP, as well as its global growth in the past 12 months and the successful shift from a data centre storage replication provider to the more broad market for optimisation as key reasons for the company's new standing.

According to Gartner, Silver Peak has used this growth to develop new products and diversify distribution methods that enable it to penetrate a highly competitive market. The 8-year-old company moves into territory also occupied by industry leaders, such as Cisco and Riverbed, whose hold on the market had previously been considered unbreakable.

Daniel Kennedy, research director for information security at TheInfoPro, has predicted rapid growth for the WAN optimisation market, but expected Cisco and Riverbed to remain the two frontrunners.

"WAN optimisation in general continues to ascend at an upward trajectory," Kennedy says. "If I use the last couple years as a guide, despite talk to the contrary, Cisco and Riverbed continue to own the space, with Riverbed ceding little ground in the leadership position despite Cisco still being dominant in core networking, and thus should have easy entry to most enterprises with any optimisation strategy."

However, Kennedy did acknowledge the possibility for other companies, such as Silver Peak, to disrupt the market, primarily because Riverbed also took an unexpected route to assume its leadership position in the market. If that could have happened with Riverbed, according to Kennedy, "anything can happen."

"It's a strange phenomenon in a sense, since Cisco should theoretically be poised to be the first stop in any manager's looking at WANOpt, because they likely already have Cisco network equipment in place," Kennedy says. "But Riverbed has done an excellent job penetrating the mind share of network IT managers. In fact, something macro would have to happen to upset this balance going into 2013. That can certainly happen."

With several enterprise trends driving widespread adoption of WAN optimisation tools, such as growing reliance on the cloud, an increase in video use in the enterprise and the consumerisation of IT, changes in market leadership may not be the only result. Earlier this month, IDC predicted that rising revenues may even lead to acquisitions.

"When you think about the strategic importance of the enterprise network and the connectivity out to customers, partners, taking advantage of cloud services or even just using your own internally owned data centres to create an active-active [network] or an overall disaster recovery strategy, there's a real focus on that WAN architecture," says Cindy Borovick, IDC program vice president for Enterprise Data Center Networks. "And we believe the combination of network intelligence and WAN expertise is really going to start to change. We'll start to see some vendor changes and acquisitions."

In 2012, IDC expects growth in spending for WAN optimisation and network intelligence tools to outpace that for network equipment as a whole, with revenues climbing to $1.3 billion by year-end.