The Orange Business Services arm of France Telecom SA says it is productizing an optimization/acceleration service based on Ipanema Technologies SA, but will stay vendor-agnostic and offer other vendors’, mentioning Packeteer, Juniper Networks, Riverbed Technology and Blue Coat Systems.
The Paris-based business services arm of the French group, formerly known as Equant, is one of the four big global players in WAN services, alongside BTGS, Verizon Business and AT&T. Orange Business Services has actually been working with optimization/acceleration technology since the 2000/2001 timeframe when it struck up a relationship with Packeteer, said Richard Heaps, head of products in its integration services division.
In the first half of 2005, that relationship evolved into a productized offering called Application Performance Analysis, said Heaps, followed toward the end of the year by Network Application Acceleration, a service based on the DX app acceleration technology from Juniper (i.e. its Redline acquisition).
The Ipanema-based offering, which had the provisional name of Business Application Management but may ultimately be called Business Acceleration, is at the delivery stage under controlled availability, said Will Shipley, head of solutions marketing for the company’s networks business.
The entire relationship with Ipanema comes from the parent France Telecom, admitted Heaps, and indeed, the service will be launched initially in France, even though its first two beta customers are both in other countries, namely Renault in Spain and SGS in Switzerland.
Heaps argued in favour of the vendor-agnostic approach, however, because different companies have different strengths, even though each vendor is trying to add the other’s optimization techniques, with differing degrees of success or failure.
Indeed, he said, it is an achievement to get two of the various functions in the same box, noting that Orange Business Services already uses Blue Coat’s devices for security purposes, so the optimization/acceleration capabilities they have gained over the last year is a welcome addition.
In the case of Riverbed, he said that it is the result of customer interest. They’ve been coming out on top in tests of their WAFS [wide-area file systems] and compression, so we’ve been driven to work with them, he explained.
In simplistic terms, it could be said that Orange uses Packeteer for QoS/prioritization, Juniper for Layer-7 app acceleration and Ipanema for optimization, the French developer being particular popular for its ability to operate from the core of the network.
Riverbed has been something some customers have required, and is certainly far from any productization. Indeed, it would appear there has not even been a definite decision to productize and, in any case, the relationship is a couple of years away from being where we are with Packeteer, Heaps said.
Blue Coat is evidently on the carrier’s radar, not least because it has deployed the vendor’s products at a major retailer in France, and as the Orange exec put it, if you talk to me in six months’ time we could be working with Blue Coat [in optimization/acceleration].
Citrix too has been adding optimization and acceleration capabilities to its portfolio of late, but aside from being able to deliver them as part of broader Presentation Server (i.e. server-based computing) deployments, Heaps argued that they would need to have a very clear advantage for us to take them on board as a provider of generic optimization/acceleration.
The two names Heaps mentioned as erstwhile partners in this area that have now largely fallen by the wayside, meanwhile, were Expand Networks, which he considered overly driven by their compression capabilities, and Compuware, because that company’s technology only enables reporting on app performance rather than optimization.
What Orange would clearly like, in fact, is for a degree of standardization to occur in the sector, as that would enable it to develop a common service wrap into which it could plus a particular vendor’s technology, depending on the specific customer requirement. The term under consideration for this would be something like Application-Centric Networking, said Shipley.
The question, Heaps concluded, is who can credibly perform several functions in the same unit? He cited Blue Coat, for instance, noting that security’s traditionally been weak on Packeteer, Juniper or Riverbed.
Meanwhile, Packeteer’s compression wasn’t very good at first, but now it’s acceptable, i.e. it can work with their packet shaping and QoS. For data center consolidation, we’d still look at Juniper, while for optimization of voice traffic, today it would be Packeteer, because all the issues with VoIP come from WAN congestion, in other words QoS, he said.