In the AFE (application front-end) space, Cisco is launching the ACE 4710, a standalone appliance version of its ACE blade. First released in April 2006, the ACE blade is a high-capacity load balancer with hardware offload for protocols like HTTP and SSL, plus the ability to be divided into multiple virtual load balancers for different applications. It has a high capacity of 4 Gbps per blade, but also a high cost, as it requires a Catalyst 6500 switch.
The standalone version starts at 1 GBps for $15995, which should help it better compete with other AFE vendors such as F5 and Juniper. AFEs are growing in importance thanks to the popularity of Web-based applications, and are particularly useful when handling the multiple connections set up by Ajax.
In WAN optimization, Cisco is launching WAAS Mobile, a software client aimed at remote users connecting over WAAS. This is similar to functionality already offered by Riverbed, though Cisco touts additional support for video distribution. As with software clients from competitors, the performance boost usually isn't as great as that achieved using a box shared by multiple users, as all data must be sent to each user individually. The exceptions are users connecting through an SLL (or other) VPN, as client-side software can see unencrypted data.