While WAN optimization has proven to be a core and well valued enterprise networking (and broader IT) technology — forecasted at $1.4B for 2008 — the availability of service provider managed service offerings for WAN optim. is beginning to hit its stride in 2008.For example, Verizon announced its expanded WAN optimization service this week — leveraging Cisco WAAS. And Cable & Wireless announced WAN optimization as a managed service offering earlier this year….Aberdeen Research published a research report (free summary link here) that discusses the reasons customers might outsource the deployment of WAN optim. versus managing the project themselves. These reasons are similar to those cited for other managed services, such as faster time to deployment, lack of capital expense required, and lower time/cost of operations vs. larger ongoing service expense.For both small- to mid-size organizations, as well as larger companies leveraging managed services and outsourcing as a key part of their IT strategy, managed WAN optimization can be a strong alternative to in-house design/deployment/operation. The ROI and IT benefits from the technology remain clear and very quantifiable, while the network integration and monitoring responsibilities are usually covered by the service provider.What is interesting is the strong extension into the IT environment that these leading edge service providers are making — and the benefits they’re enabling — such as faster application response times, more productive remote end users, and ability to re-architect branch office IT environments.The rollout of managed WAN optimization services is clearly another step as our service provider partners grow to address the ever expanding set of IT challenges that you, our mutual customers, have.