You can count Tacit Networks as the latest company to combine wide-area file services (WAFS) with WAN optimization.
Tacit today added WAN optimization to the latest release of its iShared software, which runs on the vendor's appliances for remote offices.
The major additions to Tacit's product include TCP acceleration and the ability to eliminate redundant data transfer over the WAN, which Tacit claims will deliver 100-to-1 compression ratios. The goal is to reduce WAN latency and bandwidth consumption to accelerate TCP-based applications.
Until now, Tacit concentrated primarily on Web, print, and file services for remote offices. When Tacit first rolled out its products, WAN optimization was considered a separate set of technologies that used network-based compression, caching, and packet sizing to eliminate repetitive features of WAN traffic.
But it's becoming clear that WAFS and WAN optimization are two sides of the same coin, and remote users require both in one device. Several vendors that started out with WAN optimization -- Expand, Orbital Data, Riverbed, and Swan Labs (now part of F5) -- have added WAFS. Now Tacit is adding WAN optimization to WAFS.
At least one analyst says it's no longer an option for a vendor to do just one of the two.
"WAFS is a feature, it's not a product," explains Gartner's Joe Skorupa. "WAFS and WAN optimization are solving the same problem. The initial response [from vendors] was that they were two different things. But when they talked to customers, they realized it takes both to solve the branch office problem."
Noah Breslow, VP of product management for Tacit, says the vendor has been convinced of that for a while but considered it easier to add WAN optimization to WAFS than the other way around. "We announced we were going to go in this direction last summer," he says. "We're adding something that in some ways is the easier technology. We believe we solved the hardest problem first." [Ed note: It's Monday morning, Quarterback!]
Customer feedback no doubt helped convince Tacit to add WAN optimization. For instance, IT manager Ron Maxwell of Reno, Nev., architectural firm Blakely Johnson & Ghusn, found Riverbed's WAN optimization capabilities more to his liking than Tacit's approach of caching CIFS and NFS storage traffic over IP.
"Tacit uses caching -- users cache files locally in the appliance in their remote offices," he says. "If there are problems with the WAN link, the data becomes susceptible to problems. If one of our ISPs goes down, we've got cached data on the remote site. If somebody in the other office works on the same data, they're working with different sets of data."
The stakes have also increased in the WAFS/WAN optimization space over the past year or so due to the involvement of major storage vendors as partners. Brocade sells Tacit's software through an OEM deal, and Riverbed has OEM deals with storage vendor Hewlett-Packard and Brocade's switch rival, McData. Cisco and Juniper also acquired startups that have the technology.
With the crowded competition, Skorupa says Tacit couldn't afford to ignore WAN optimization.
"They're all heading toward the same endgame," Skorupa says. "Before you had to buy Tacit's and somebody else's if you wanted all of this... Now Tacit is able to stand toe-to-toe on the network side."