FineGround Wades Into WAFS

Data center startup branches out into storage with its new device, but faces stiff competition

April 12, 2005

3 Min Read
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Data center startup FineGround Inc., traditionally a vendor of application-delivery devices, is branching out into the storage marketplace with the launch of its Velocity-FS box today.

The new device is designed for wide-area file services (WAFS), an emerging technology which enables users in remote offices to access data from data center storage servers. The 1-rack-unit-high box sits behind a router in the data center and converts HTTP requests received over the wide-area network into the Common Internet File System (CIFS) protocol, which is used to access the files. The CIFS response is then converted back into HTTP and sent back over the WAN.

A number of vendors, including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Tacit Networks Inc., already have offerings in this space, although there is a key difference in FineGrounds strategy. The Campbell, Calif.-based vendor uses a “single-box” approach to handling these files.

Vendors such as Cisco, for example, which built its WAFS strategy around technology acquired from Actona Technologies Inc., uses devices located both at the data center and the remote location to share data (see Cisco Acts on Actona). Likewise, Tacit Networks Inc.’s iShared technology uses two devices.

”The strength of the FineGround approach is the single box, which is located in the data center with your most skilled IT staff,” says William Hurley, analyst at The Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. “It simplifies management and deployment of the technology.”But, there are some major pluses to the two-box approach, according to the analyst. Hurley cites, in particular, the caching offered by the device on the remote box. “Having a local appliance will help mitigate calamitous circumstances, for example, if the WAN goes down,” he says. “Things can be cached to it and it allows for work to continue until the WAN can be repaired.”

Hurley believes that local devices, such as those offered by Cisco and Tacit, also open the door to additional revenue streams. “Having a platform at the other end of the WAN link can become a footprint for complimentary wide-area data services.”

Noah Breslow, vice president of marketing at Tacit, confirmed that his company already offers a range of additional offerings such as print, network, and software update services through its existing platform (see Tacit Rolls Out IT Services). A new email service will also be launched in the second quarter of this year, he adds.

Hurley also warns that FineGround will have its work cut out when it comes to the marketing machines of its competitors. “There are some very big legacy, storage-orientated vendors who are bringing a lot of marketing muscle to this,” he says.

Cisco, for example, has a well established relationship with EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and today, Tacit signed an agreement with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT). (See Tacit Teams Up With Microsoft).”FineGround now really has to bump elbows with some very aggressive and very well known competitors,” says Hurley. “With a single-box approach FineGround has a good foundation, but if it’s a success, that will have to be worked for.”

Cisco was unavailable for comment on this article.

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

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