Brocade & Packeteer Widen Target

Software-only version begs questions about how WAFS is best implemented UPDATED 12/15 11:10 AM

December 14, 2006

5 Min Read
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Brocade today announced a software-only version of the Tapestry WAFS (wide area file services) product it OEMs from Packeteer, in a move that raises questions about the best way to use WAFS in IT networks. (See Brocade Intros Software WAFS and Brocade Busts Out Upgrades.)

Up to now, Brocade has sold Tapestry WAFS as part of a hardware appliance or as factory-installed software on servers from Dell, HP, and IBM. Brocade also OEMs the Tapestry WAFS to Nortel for its edge devices. (See Nortel Embeds Brocade Tech.) The new Brocade package is a standalone software app for any Windows Server 2003-based system.

The new standalone software is the cheapest way to buy Brocade Tapestry WAFS, though it can't be called a bargain. The software starts at $15,538 for a package that includes a headquarters and remote-site node supporting five users. In contrast, Brocade's factory-installed Tapestry software costs $10,000 more, but it comes with a failover capability the standalone package lacks. Likewise, Brocade's Tapestry WAFS appliance has failover, but it starts at $21,710 for core and edge components for five users. Brocade plans to eventually integrate the failover into the standalone option, but has no date for delivery.

Brocade's release comes days after Cisco announced the addition of a Wide Area Application Acceleration Services (WAAS) module to the vendor's integrated services routers (ISRs). Formerly, Cisco sold its WAFS technology only as a module for a standalone appliance. (See Cisco Touts ISR.)

So Brocade and Cisco customers have fresh options for adding WAFS to their networks -- besides the slew of choices they already have from vendors such as Riverbed, Juniper, Expand, and Exinda, to name just a few. (See Exinda Intros WAN Appliance.)Which options should you choose? How do Brocade's products compare with those of OEM partner Packeteer? And why would a customer choose WAFS in a Windows server instead of in a standalone appliance -- or a router?

From Brocade's standpoint, it's a question of focus. According to Mike Schmitt, Brocade's marketing manager for Tapestry WAFS, a customer could buy similar products from Packeteer, without getting the attention -- in the form of support services and packaging -- to enterprise issues. "Packeteer's products are about networking. They are not focused on file and storage," he says.

At least one analyst, who asked not to be named, says Brocade's release of software WAFS is aimed at stimulating OEM deployments, which will give customers even more options to consider.

But he stresses that the location of WAFS technology (router, server, appliance) isn't really the point. "The governing decision is whether or not [the WAFS product] meets their needs and/or works with their applications," this analyst asserts. "Where it's located is a nit."

Vendors contend that location is key. "Customers are looking for a way to augment the network-based services they've invested in, not replace them," says Baruch Deutsch, Cisco's director of product marketing for WAAS. The best way to ensure that traffic monitoring, security, and quality of service policies implemented in the routed network are preserved is to add WAFS within the network, not outside of it, he says.The need to integrate with routed traffic came up in at least one recent implementation, Carlson Wagonlit's adoption of WAN/WAFS appliances from Expand Networks. "Further integration and transparency in QOS management would be a welcome development," said Daniel Oertli, Carlson Wagonlit's vice president of IT for Asia-Pacific. (See Carlson Wagonlit.)

Still, the use of WAFS in a routed environment may simply be a matter of convenience and nothing more. "We were updating our routers anyway, and we figured that as long as we were doing that, we could add this feature," says Bryan Nash, SVP of IT at McHenry Savings Bank in Illinois. Nash has endorsed upgrades in the Cisco 2800 and 3800 ISRs, which support WAAS through new modules.

In contrast, vendors like Riverbed argue that a standalone appliance can provide the sheer electronic muscle needed to significantly compress and move large amounts of traffic over the WAN, without interfering with routing or switching.

Case in point: one customer's need to reduce WAN costs by cutting the time taken to transfer large files. "Because we have a global hardware/software development model we are constantly transferring large compressed files (greater than 500MB) on the WAN," states Walter Curd, CIO at Marvell Semiconductor, in a prepared statement. He says Riverbed's Steelhead appliance has tripled the transfer speed of a compressed file and increased the speed of an uncompressed one by 40 times.

"There are many different WAFS solutions out there today and it can be confusing to decide which ones to pick," writes analyst Dianne McAdam of the Clipper Group consultancy in an email today. "Customers have to look at several factors: support from the vendor ... scalability ... performance ... cost. Some solutions will allow bandwidth between the remote and central site to be throttled ... Other solutions will only send over the changed data."In a recent report, the Gartner Group cites several considerations for choosing what it calls a "WAN optimization controller." These include the following:

  • The desire to cut latency on specific applications

  • The cost of bandwidth

  • The need to manage certain protocols

  • The need to match specific apps to specific kinds of WAN services

  • The need to cope with browser-based apps, email, backup, and personal Web applications, which can overwhelm WAN links

The growing number of choices in the WAFS arena, as typified by recent announcements, is clearly favorable to users. On the downside, variety complicates the selection process.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • The Clipper Group Inc.

  • Exinda Networks

  • Expand Networks Inc.

  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)

  • Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL)

  • Packeteer Inc. (Nasdaq: PKTR)

  • Riverbed Technology Inc.

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