Orange Business Services and Vanco are two forward-thinking service providers offering managed application performance optimisation services. They cater to multinational companies (Orange through its Equant acquisition), which places them smack in the sweet spot of the distributed application delivery system benefits we talked about in yesterday's blog - and they are making the most of it.

We recently chatted with Jean Critcher, Head of the Application Management Competency Centre for Orange Business Services, and with Ciaran Roche, Solutions Director for "virtual network operator" Vanco US. Both service providers offer packaged application delivery services built around Ipanema's Business Network Optimisation platform, as well as customised solutions built around other application delivery system vendors including Riverbed, Juniper, Packeteer and Cisco.

Interestingly Vanco and Orange's preferred vendor is Ipanema, and not current industry darlings like Riverbed. We asked Jean and Ciaran to explain their choice. They both like the fact that Ipanema designed its product with service providers in mind. Ipanema scales well to handle many customers, and provides them with the reporting they need.

In contrast according to Jean Critcher, "Riverbed is very enterprise centric. They haven't built a central management platform that is friendly to us." She added that although Cisco's solution is carrier friendly, their current pricing structure is enterprise centric, making them an uneconomical choice for service providers. This is surprising given Cisco's traditional courtship of service providers.

The Ipanema-based service from Orange, called Business Acceleration Network Boost, and the comparable Vanco service, called Application Aware Networking, layer onto both service providers' IP VPN services. Both performance optimisation services share essential elements in common. They identify WAN applications and provide bandwidth usage breakdown, they dynamically optimise application performance by adjusting throughput to favour critical applications, and they accelerate networked applications.

Given the choice, Orange and Vanco would prefer to limit their offerings to their packaged services, but they offer customised services wrapped around other vendors' solutions for two reasons. First, many customers already have vendors in place (often Packeteer) while others simply prefer to remain in Cisco's camp for all of their networking needs. Second, as Jean put it, "Our customers kill us with the Gartner Magic Quadrant." In her experience, Riverbed and Juniper routinely win the public popularity contest - Riverbed often winning on raw performance, and Juniper on cost.

In the end, Orange and Vanco feel they must support the vendors customers want. So Orange offers customised Business Acceleration services wrapped around Packeteer, Juniper and Riverbed (with Cisco available by special request), and Vanco customises its Application Aware Networking service around Riverbed and Packeteer, with Cisco support planned.