While WAN optimization has long been available to purchase and deploy from network equipment vendors like Cisco, Riverbed and others, the time has come when leading service providers around the world are now offering their customers the strong benefits of WAN optimization technology as a managed service.The growth of managed services overall has been strong over the last few years. Nemertes Research has data showing in 2006 only 27% of their surveyed organizations used/planned to use branch managed services. Today, 63% of Nemertes’ surveyed organizations use or plan to use branch managed services in some locations. Another interesting data point: managed services are out pacing IT industry growth — 18% for MS vs. 8% for IT industry (source: Ovum). While WAN optimization is relatively early in this cycle, expect to see adoption of this managed service grow, especially among small to mid-size businesses…though some analysts such as NetForecast also see global enterprises .On the service provider side, managed WAN optimization is a high growth opportunity that many SPs are bringing to market. Following on Verizon’s announcement of a managed WAN optim service based on Cisco WAAS, Cisco announced yesterday that 7 additional service providers are or have recently launched a WAN optimization service using its WAAS solution, with another dozen SPs either also offering or evaluating a managed WAN optim service using WAAS. Some of the benefits that these SPs are providing our joint customers include: * Reduced IT costs and better managed data through centralized servers and applications* A complete WAN service — access circuit and app acceleration* Lower up front costs — no equipment purchased * Lower opex through SP managing the technology* Integrated CPE hardware with Cisco ISR + WAAS module Should you be considering a managed WAN optim service? Here are a few areas to analyze and assess:* Does your organization have performance challenges with central applications accessed remotely from the data center?* Are there branch office IT components that need to be centralized (app or file servers, storage, backup, etc)?* Are you using getting your WAN router from your SP as part of a managed WAN circuit today?* Is your IT team’s preference to avoid capital expense, especially in the current economy?* Is there IT resource available to deploy and manage the WAN optim appliances, or would the team rather outsource that operational effort?* How do capex vs. opex budgets compare today, assuming ROI is measurable from the technology?Either way, today’s Cisco announcement — and more importantly the broader market trend — continues to highlight that WAN optimization technology has “crossed the chasm” (to quote Geoffrey Moore), and is becoming available to a growing set of companies and buyers through another form factor — the managed service offering.