NetQOS and Cisco Systems hope to fill a visibility gap into the performance gains promised by WAN optimization and application acceleration through their joint efforts to instrument Ciscos Wide Area Application Services appliances.
On July 24, the two vendors will introduce a NetQOS agent customized for the Cisco appliance that is designed to give network operators visibility into the performance gains delivered by the appliances in speeding the transmission of Web and other applications from server to remote PCs.
The aim of the integration between WAAS and NetQOSs NetQoS Performance Center performance measurement, analysis and reporting software is to help enterprises take before and after measurements for pilot testing WAAS appliances; determine which locations and applications can best exploit the benefits of WAN optimization; and cost-justify larger scale deployments by better calculating the ROI.
"A lot of people use stopwatches now. You never get to a strategic rollout without quantifiable data for the CIO," said Steve Fulton, senior director of strategic alliances at NetQOS, in Austin, Texas.
The two vendors believe the visibility provided by the embedded software is unique in the WAN optimization/application acceleration space. "A lot of WAN optimization vendors use tunnels where all independent applications traffic is aggregated to a single port between WAN optimization appliances. Cisco doesnt use tunnels, so you can see application traffic before it is optimized," Fulton said.
The software in the WAAS appliance takes TCP header information and exports that information before and after it is optimized to provide visibility into performance from the client side, WAN side and server side.
"We give an end-to-end view of performance improvements," he said.
The data is exported to the NetQOS Performance Center centralized reporting software. A NetQOS ReporterAnalyzer traffic analysis module reports on the traffic flow improvement measurements.
But whether they provide a true end-to-end measurement is a matter of debate. "NetQOS and Cisco only see what happens on the network. There is a lot that goes on inside the applications and databases that they dont have an understanding of," said David Williams, an analyst with Gartner. "They show a piece of it, but not the whole thing."
But because most application acceleration techniques take away the visibility that network operators get with performance monitoring and measurement tools, getting some of that back is a welcome change, said WAAS user Frank Kist, acting CIO at SRA International, a federal IT consulting firm in Fairfax, Va. "Before these application accelerator devices like the WAAS, I could do analysis with other tools and say, Heres where my bottleneck is. But if the tools arent aware of the WAAS, they arent as effective. Thats why Im excited about NetQOS."
Cisco, of San Jose, Calif., will make the embedded code available in all WAAS devices in the next release of their software, due in August. Along with their integration work, both vendors will conduct joint marketing, sales and support activities to help customers learn how to accurately calculate WAN optimization improvements.