Window on WANs

Sep 24 2012   9:21AM GMT

Should you use a hardware or software WAN optimizer?

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

WAN optimization comes in many flavors and form factors. Two of the most hotly debated options are hardware and software—or physical and virtual—WAN optimization controllers (WOCs).

Advances in today’s virtual technologies have made deciding between the two form factors more difficult. When virtual WOCs (vWOCs) first entered the market, the technology accelerated data more slowly than their physical counterparts—but that’s beginning to change.

The decision between hardware and software WAN optimizers has become less of a question about speed, and more of a tradeoff between scalability and throughput. It also becomes a question of how familiar IT professionals are with virtual technology. If someone isn’t familiar with a virtual machine or server, then a software WOC could be more trouble than it’s worth.

Nemertes principal analyst John Burke breaks down the hardware vs. software debate this way: 

IT needs to balance throughput requirements against scalability, infrastructure availability, and your desire to neatly modularize network functions. Where IT would have to deploy virtual machine hosts in places it did not otherwise plan to, a virtual WAN optimization appliance is not recommended. Where capacity is available and IT wants to spread WAN optimization widely, virtualization has more to recommend it.

To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of hardware and software WAN optimizers, read Burke’s article on

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  • A001
    Hi Tessa, We find Software WAN Optimization as effective as hardware WAN Optimization. Only it offers easy manageability for large setups. We have deployed Hardware WAN Optimization at Network core & corresponding software clients at Desktops. We only need to manage the core appliance in this manner we are managing close to 250 locations with over 500 Desktops by this methodology.Regards,Gautam
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