Citrix Widens WAN Strategy

Unveils high-end WAN optimization gear, hints at plans with Microsoft

September 18, 2006

3 Min Read
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As the boundary between Wide Area File Services (WAFS) and WAN optimization continues to blur, Citrix today took the wraps off new WAN offerings, providing a hint of things to come from its Microsoft partnership.

The vendor, which recently teamed up with Microsoft to build combined WAFS/WAN devices, unveiled two new high-end WAN products built on technology from its million Orbital Data acquisition. (See Citrix Grabs Orbital Data and Cisco Announces Interoperabilities.)

Last month Citrix and Microsoft announced a deal to develop a "new type of branch office appliance" combining its WANScaler technology with Microsoft's ISA Server and Windows Server 2003 R2. (See Intriguing Equation and Microsoft, Citrix Expand.)

The WANScaler 8500 and 8800, launched today, are the first Citrix WAN optimization products with built-in disk storage, a technology likely to feature in the Microsoft partnership. By storing large amounts of data using a technique called delta-based compression, users don't need to send large chunks of data across the WAN.

Citrix's previous high-end offering, the 6000, stored a limited amount of compressed data in its system memory, according to Greg Smith, the vendor's director of product marketing. But the 2U 8800 and 1U 8500 can store nearly 1 Tbyte and 250 Gbytes respectively, compared to the 6000's 4 Gbytes.Although specifics have not been revealed, the combined product, which is slated to ship by the end of next year, is expected to include CIFS optimization from Citrix for file sharing, as well as Microsoft's Distributed File Server (DFS).

But Citrix has got a big job on its hands to meet this deadline, warns Joe Skorupa, research director at analyst firm Gartner. "It's a lot of work to do in 15 months," he explains. "They have to move their current product, which is Linux-based, to Windows, and they have to add all these new features."

The endgame, according to the analyst, is all about Microsoft's desire to head off Cisco, which recently beefed up its own WAN optimization story. (See Cisco Backs Into Optimization.) "Microsoft understands that they can't let Cisco take control of the branch," he says. He expects to see more Citrix-style deals from Microsoft.

Ultimately, however, Skorupa warns that Microsoft will meet resistance amongst some users, even with partners on its side. "It's clearly not what the networking guys want," he says. "They are going to want to stay with a Linux-based machine -- part of it is security, part of it is familiarity," he explains, adding that server staff will likely be more receptive to Microsoft.

Technology consolidation is certainly the name of the game in this corner of the market. Citrix's move for Orbital was the latest in a frenzy of acquisitions that are bringing WAN optimization and WAFS to a range of products. The list of acquirers includes Cisco, F5, Expand, Riverbed, Juniper, and Packeteer. (See Cisco Acts on Actona, Cisco Chomps FineGround, Packeteer Picks Tacit, Expand Snaps Up DiskSites, F5 Hits Accelerator, F5 Snaps Up Swan Labs, and Users Rally Round Remote Solutions.)In related WAN storage news, Packeteer is replacing its low-end 1200 and 1550 optimization products with a new entry-level device, the PacketShaper 1400.

This will offer "a very aggressive" price point for branch office users, according to Mark Urban, Packeteer's director of product marketing. Pricing for the basic 1400 starts at $1500, compared to $2150 for the 1200, he told Byte and Switch.

A more advanced version of the 1U 1400 device, which comes with QOS control, costs $3500. Both versions of the product, like Citrix's WANScalers, are already available.

Packeteer, which acquired file sharing specialist Tacit earlier this year, is also hard at work integrating WAFS and WAN, according to Urban. (See Packeteer Closes on Tacit, Sources: Packeteer Eyeing Tacit, and A Market of Contradiction.) "We will likely have some additional announcements in the next quarter about very aggressive implementation plans for the two types of technology," he says.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS)

  • Expand Networks Inc.

  • F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV)

  • Gartner Inc.

  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Packeteer Inc. (Nasdaq: PKTR)

  • Tacit Networks Inc.0

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