In researching information on application optimization, I recently came upon this research report published by TRAC research, “WAN Acceleration Can’t Do it All; Organizations Looking for More Advanced Capabilities for WAN Visibility & Control.”  WAN Optimization is a hot topic, especially with the influx of new cloud providers, as evidenced by all the WAN Optimization vendors at last year’s VMworld and recent VC funding.  According to the survey, top selection criteria for deploying a WAN optimization solution are improvements in the speed of applications, ease of deployment & management and improvements in network throughput.  Survey respondents also noted one of the top challenges with managing applications include a lack of visibility into network traffic.  With this, the article concludes that while WAN optimization will improve the speed of application throughput, it is not enough to solve for the challenge of managing application performance and WAN appliance solutions should be supplemented with tools for network and application visibility.

I agree with this assessment but would like to take it a step further.  If the main goal is to improve application responsiveness, it is important to look at the application as a whole.  The problem may be in the network tier, but maybe not.  The network guy is often the fall guy.  To determine whether a WAN accelerator actually solves for the application latency problem in the network, it is critical to monitor traffic latency levels before and after the WAN optimization appliance is implemented.  Is the network faster? Yes.  Did it solve the application responsiveness issue? Umm….

Application responsiveness can be driven by several problems in the application from the network tier to a problem with the database SQL query to a constrained memory issue with the web server.  To understand whether you have an application response time issue from the end users perspective, it is important to monitor the transaction from their eyes.  By monitoring responsiveness of each step of the transaction, you can better isolate where the problem is coming from – was the checkout process slow, or did the application have a problem in loading catalog data, etc. 

I am curious to understand your experience – did deployment of WAN acceleration in your environment in fact solve your application response time problem…..or do you know?