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Alternative Technology, a distributor specializing in network and infrastructure, began distributing Citrix WANScaler Sept. 12, just a week after Cisco Systems launched a competing product, Cisco Wide-Area Application Services.

And Alternative Technology finds the situation ideal, said President and Chief Operating Officer Bill Botti, in Englewood, Colo.

Cisco WAAS, far from cornering the market, is increasing opportunity by supporting the technology, lifting all boats in the tidal swell, Botti said.

WAN optimization improves WAN performance without changes to current network management tools, firewalls, network services or applications.

“For years, Cisco and the telcos have been saying you don’t need WAN optimization or Citrixes or Packeteers,” Botti said. “You need more pipe to get more bandwidth. They told the market to rely on their routers and hubs to optimize the WAN.”

“Now they’re saying, ‘Yes, WAN optimization will improve the network. There is a market,’” he said. “They’re the big dog in networking and they just endorsed WAN optimization, but they don’t have the edge on delivery.”

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For its part, Cisco believes it does have an advantage because of its dominance in the network infrastructure space, said Mark Weiner, director of market management for data center solutions at Cisco Systems, based in San Jose, Calif.

“This was integrated and built in-house,” Weiner said. “Our solution is going to be the least disruptive because we know it works with Cisco technology. I would say that gives us an advantage, but we don’t have the market cornered and we don’t take anything for granted.”

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For VARs and distributors like Alternative Technology, optimizing the WAN rather than building more pipe adds the element of control, both of the network and price, Botti said.

By improving the experience of applications run over the WAN, VARs and distributors are more likely to sell more applications, he said. “You’re improving deployment, without changing anything in the network.”

“It makes the VAR appear more strategic,” said Steve Benvenuto, business development manager for application networking services of worldwide channels at Cisco Systems. “If a partner is brokering a WAN, they can say, ‘Let’s examine your needs and see what your goals are over the next 24 months.’ Maybe they want to downgrade and not have to upgrade the WAN for another 24 months after all. Now you appear strategic and visionary to your customer, to the CIO.”