Expand Wakes Up to WAFS

Another network optimization specialist expands into the growing market for Wide Area File Services

August 2, 2005

3 Min Read
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Expand Networks Inc. became the latest wide area network (WAN) optimization vendor to enter the burgeoning market for wide area file services (WAFS) with the launch of a new family of devices today (see Expand Intros WAFS, CIFS Acceleration).

WAFS allows users in remote offices access to information from data center servers by storing replicated files on caches at the remote sites. The technology aims to improve file transfer times and enable remote users to continue working on files even if the network goes down.

Vendors like Expand, Swan Labs Corp., and Riverbed Technology Inc. are looking to combine WAN optimization and WAFS technologies in an attempt to grab market share from the likes of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which already offers an array of WAFS products (see Swan Revamps WAN/WAFS Kit and Riverbed Fords WAN/WAFS Divide).

Expands new devices range from the low-end, one rack-unit high 4920, which contains 160 gigabytes of internal disk storage for cached files, up to the two rack-unit high 6940, which offers 500 gigabytes of storage.

But the WAN optimization vendors are taking different approaches to tackling WAFS. Expand, for example, is offering Domain Name System (DNS), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), print, and fax services as part of its WAFS products. These aim to let users remove mail and print servers from remote sites.Joe Skorupa, research director for enterprise communications at analyst firm Gartner Inc., believes that DNS, DHCP, and printing are key weapons in Expand’s armory. “They are the first of the WAN optimization vendors to target DNS, DHCP, and print services,” he says. “We expect all of the guys to do it.”

However, the WAFS/WAN optimization space is something of an arms race, according to Skorupa, and other vendors have features that Expand lacks. Riverbed, for example, has a broader set of protocols, he notes, but “no one has a complete feature set.”

Gartner’s research says that the total WAN optimization and application delivery market, including WAFS, was worth more than $900 million last year and will reach $1.5 billion this year.

Noah Breslow, vice president of marketing at WAFS startup Tacit Networks Inc., was not exactly shocked by Expand’s move. “It doesn’t surprise me that a WAN optimization vendor like Expand is trying to make inroads to try and differentiate their offerings,” he says. “I think what we are seeing is a massive upsurge in demand.”

Although not a WAN optimization company, Breslow added that Tacit is now planning to step into Expand’s space by adding new TCP acceleration features to its WAFS products (see Tacit Announces Next-Gen Products and Tacit Rolls Out IT Services).But any vendor entering the WAFS space is likely to come up against Cisco, which is well established in the market. The company already offers a range of WAFS appliances and technology from its acquisition of Actona last year (see Cisco Acts on Actona). Earlier this year the networking giant also snapped up startup FineGround Networks Inc. for $70 million (see Cisco Chomps FineGround).

With a number of WAFS vendors already in place, has Expand made its move a little too late? “Earlier would have been better,” admits Skorupa. Rival Riverbed, for example, has already managed to forge a partnership with Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), he says, and Tacit is working with Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT). (See HP in Deal With Riverbed, Sources Say, Brocade Invests in Tacit, and Tacit Teams Up With Microsoft.)

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum

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