Cisco Joins WAN/WAFS in Name Only

Vendor drops other shoe on $150 million investment in WAN/WAFS technology. It falls silently

October 18, 2005

3 Min Read
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(Nasdaq: CSCO) has unified the management of its WAFS and WAN acceleration products, but it's holding the phone on actual product integration.

In an internal memo last week, Cisco announced creation of the Application Delivery Business Unit, which will draw together the groups that up to now have developed and managed Cisco's WAFS (wide area file services) and WAN optimization products.

These include the appliance the company bought with its purchase of WAFS vendor Actona for $82 million in June 2004, as well as gear from the acquisition of WAN optimization supplier FineGround for $70 million in May 2005. (See Cisco Acts on Actona and Cisco Chomps FineGround.)

Cisco is following the industry verbiage about combining the bandwidth-scrunching features of WAN optimizers with WAFS applications' ability to eliminate the chattiness characteristic of IP networks. (See WAFS vs WAN Optimization: No Contest, Expand Wakes Up to WAFS, and Remote Site Rapprochement.) But apparently there's no real rush to blend the two technologies. Like Packeteer and Tacit Networks, which recently announced a joint sales agreement, Cisco seems to be in no rush to join WAN and WAFS at the hip. (See Packeteer Gives Tacit Approval.)

Cisco's new unit combines the engineering and marketing of the products, which have been given new names and some new features (more on that momentarily). The group's new VP and general manager is George Kurian, who up to now has headed the Caching Services Business Unit at Cisco and was formerly VP of Cisco's Routing Technology Group.Kurian answers to Jayshree Ullal, SVP and general manager of Cisco's Security, Switching, and Data Center Technologies Group.

Cisco's version of FineGround's WAFS appliance has been rechristened the Cisco Application Velocity System (AVS). It's being sold as a standalone appliance in two forms: the 3120 comes with WAN acceleration, monitoring, and firewall features; and the 3180 has just the monitoring.

Cisco has renamed the Actona product the Wide-area Application Engine (WAE). It is a branch office accelerator for WANs that comes today only with CIFS or NFS, not both, or as a caching appliance with support for HTTP and HTTP/S and video streaming. While the AVS sits in the data center and serves branch offices, only the WAE optimizes the actual WAN connection.

Product pricing hasn't changed with the new packaging, Cisco says.

As to further developments, don't hold your breath. Cisco spokespeople says the AVS may eventually get put into Cisco's Catalyst switch, as a module for the Catalyst's CSS/CSM Content Switch. (Got that?) Likewise, the WAE may eventually become a module in the Cisco Integrated Services Router.At least one user doesn't much care about integration -- or lack of it. Brad Styve, systems analyst at shopping portal Hy-Vee Inc. bought FineGround's WAN optimizer nearly four years ago after comparing it with just one other product, the WAFS software formerly known as Pivia, which is now owned by F5 Networks Inc. (See Swan Labs Picks Up Pivia and F5 Snaps Up Swan Labs.)

Styve says internal HTML traffic has been honed down 90 percent thanks to FineGround. He doesn't own the new "Cisco-ized" AVS box, and isn't in a rush to move off the server he bought from FineGround. "It's a great strategic move by Cisco, but FineGround won't change a lot," he maintains. "It hasn't really affected us."

Bottom line? While Cisco joined the bandwagon to WAFS/WAN optimization, it hasn't yet proven the value of combining the two technologies or integrating them with its own product line. Perhaps it's in no hurry to do so, beyond taking steps to manage them under one roof. After all, with customers like Styve, what's the rush?

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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