Cisco: We Are Not Abandoning WAN Optimization

"Let's set the record straight: to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of WAAS' demise have been greatly exaggerated," wrote Mark Lohmeyer, vice president of marketing, Services Routing Technology Group, in a Friday post to Cisco's corporate Borderless Networks blog. "Cisco is fully committed to the WAAS business. We have made some changes in our go-to-market approach, but our engineering teams remain fully engaged and working against our long term roadmap to drive application awareness to the network."

Lohmeyer's Friday blog is the second time in the past eight weeks that Cisco has sought to head off rumors that it would pull back on its WAN optimization business. In late July, Prashanth Shenoy, a Cisco product marketing manager, posted a similar missive to the same blog. Cisco made updates to WAAS as recently as its Cisco Live show back in June.

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Cisco announced a new round of about 1,300 layoffs in July, and multiple sources told CRN and other news outlets that a sizable portion of those hit the WAAS group.

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Cisco has neither confirmed nor denied large layoffs affecting WAAS, but Lohmeyer's post indicates that "Cisco integrated the WAAS teams directly into our access router group, which now allows us to leverage a large set of developers and to focus on our Cloud Intelligent Network architecture, Cloud Connect Solutions and the L 4-7 technologies which support the cloud transition." Lohmeyer also posted comments from Cisco customers Sparrow Hospital and Health System and American Water in support of WAAS.

"As the most powerful WAN optimization system in the market today, Cisco WAAS is here to stay," Lohmeyer wrote.

Cisco said during its global restructuring last year that it would exit or de-emphasize underperforming businesses, and in recent months, it's confirmed it will stop investing in things like the Cius Android tablet and in future versions of its ACE load balancing products. It's confirmed nothing specific on WAAS, except for the folding of the WAAS unit into other groups.

Exiting calendar 2011, Cisco's WAN optimization market share had dropped to between 23 percent and 25 percent, according to several analyst reports. According to Infonetics Research, however, Cisco was No. 1 in unit share for WAN optimization appliances during the last three quarters, and it maintains an installed base of more than 165,000 units with 10,000-plus global customers. Riverbed is the market-share leader in WAN optimization with roughly 50 percent.

WAN optimization itself is a market expected to expand tenfold from 2011 to 2016, and it is now crowded with alternative vendors, from Blue Coat Systems to upstarts like Silver Peak Systems and cloud-based players like Aryaka Networks.