Virtualized workloads need virtualized network optimization to deliver peak performance wherever users work. We already have cloud-ready mobile applications, thanks to tremendous advances in server and storage virtualization in the last decade. And we certainly have cloud-ready users — they’re already more mobile and cloud-ready than most of our infrastructure. It's high time the network catches up, but the reality is that most existing networks still rely on point solutions that optimize performance for a limited set of applications. 

WAN optimization and application delivery controllers have certainly proven their worth, but rigid appliance architectures have led to pockets of redundant optimization components, from the data center to the branch to the laptop. These "islands of optimization" should be the target of the next generation of network architectures. Just as server and storage virtualization freed up compute and storage capacity that was previously tightly linked to one server, array, or application, new network architectures must free up all the network optimization capacity currently locked up in point devices.

This strategy lays the foundation for a move from application-focused networks to user experience-focused networks, or uXns. This shift is covered in depth in an excellent report, "Focus Your Network Strategy On User Experience, Not Application Delivery," by my colleague Andre Kindness. When it comes to WAN optimization in particular, Andre writes, "To deploy WAN optimization controllers as part of a UXn you need to leverage multiple form factors: hardware appliances; mobile clients installed on individual devices; and software appliances that can be loaded on any commodity server or as a virtual machine."

In short, you need to cluster, pool, and/or virtualize your WAN opt investment so you can intelligently allocate all of your optimization capacity — on demand — to solve each new user experience challenge. Do you have optimization capacity locked up in physical devices? Some virtualized WAN optimization deployed for a select set of mobile users? Wish you could deploy all of it where it’s needed most?

I encourage you to check out the latest virtualized and clustered WAN optimization solutions from the leaders in this space. Cisco, a company that admits it’s been a little late with its cloud strategy, made a big move to catch up last week with the Cloud Connected Solution, launched officially at CiscoLive! Cisco's taken a big step in the right direction. The Cloud Connected launch includes new virtualized and cloud-enabled services (like the new virtual Cloud Services Router) and platforms (including the new AppNav technology).

AppNav targets the WAN optimization angle directly by clustering multiple Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) physical and/or virtual appliances into a single resource pool. RiverbedCitrix, Silver Peak, and Blue Coat, among others, aren’t standing still either. If you’re planning to move more workloads to the cloud, or facing an increasingly mobile workforce that demands top app performance anywhere, you owe it to yourself to check out the latest from the leaders and free up the islands of optimization scattered throughout your company.