Growing data volumes, offsite data replication, and the increasing use of content-rich applications and Big Data are requiring IT organizations to optimize available network resources. Trends such as virtualization and cloud computing further reinforce this requirement. To help with this process, companies are increasingly relying on a new generation of software-based WAN optimization capabilities that are displacing standalone physical appliances by offering more scalability, flexibility, and manageability. An optimized WAN environment can increase network reliability and availability and improve cost profiles. It also improves the performance and reliability of data backup, replication, and recovery processes. This Technology Spotlight examines these trends and the role that Silver Peak's product offerings play in this important emerging market.