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Virtually Changed Landscape

5:30 PM -- Cisco's purchase of NeoPath Networks alters the shape of the network file virtualization market in several ways.

First, it equips Cisco, like EMC, with a technology that's become increasingly vital for customers with large collections of unstructured files, typically housed in NAS.

Now the pressure's on Cisco to make the most of its newly acquired wares. The company is playing things close to the vest, refusing to divulge how it will sell NeoPath's appliance from here on. What's more, integration of NeoPath's technology with Cisco's WAAS platform could take time, and there's no guarantee it won't meet the fate of some other Cisco modules. Remember the Veritas blade? (See Veritas Finally Delivers on Cisco.)

Still, in the words of one analyst, Cisco's move clarifies two basic approaches to the technology involved. "It is very clear that we're heading into a world that will pit Microsoft and its platform-based approach against Cisco with its network-centric approach," says Brad O'Neill of the Taneja Group.

Cisco's move also puts Acopia in the spotlight, and Acopia's management is basking there. "I'm opening a bottle of champagne!" quips Christopher P. Lynch, Acopia's CEO. "Another competitor is going by the wayside, and we're standing tall, excited about our prospects."

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