WAFS Goes Into Orbital

Vendor adds CIFS acceleration to ride the WAN optimization/WAFS convergence trend

November 8, 2005

3 Min Read
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Any line between wide area network (WAN) optimization and wide area file services (WAFS) just got a bit blurrier as Orbital Data added Microsoft's Common Internet File System (CIFS) acceleration to its platform.

Orbital today rolled out its Orbital 6000 series with upgraded software that includes CIFS acceleration for Windows-based applications. (See Orbital Data Unveils Family.) The new series consists of the Orbital 6800 for the data center and the Orbital 6500 for branch offices.

The move was no surprise, and comes a bit late in the game. Although CIFS acceleration is more closely associated with WAFS, other WAN optimization vendors combine it with their products as they try to combine the two technologies. Expand Networks added CIFS acceleration in August, while Riverbed Technologies and Swan Labs (now part of F5) included it from the start. (See Riverbed Unveils Steelhead 1.1, Expand Wakes Up to WAFS, and Swan Revamps WAN/WAFS Kit.) Cisco, DiskSites, and Tacit Networks make CIFS acceleration a major piece of their WAFS offerings.

CIFS acceleration is a key capability for streamlining data delivery to remote sites, the main goal of WAN optimization and WAFS. CIFS is designed for use on LANs, and often slows traffic on WANs because each read and write request is subject to network delay as it travels the network.

Orbital Data CEO Dick Pierce denies his company is late getting into WAFS territory already covered by competitors. He doesnt even consider Orbital a WAFS player with its new capability. Pierce maintains WAFS accelerates CIFS through caching, while Orbital does it by anticipating users’ requests, and reading and writing data blocks ahead of those request.“We haven’t seen WAFS as a driver for our boxes,” Pierce says. “We have customers already using Tacit or Cisco. There are a lot of technologies that have to be integrated to solve WAN acceleration, and we’re broadening our focus.”

There’s a lot of that broadening going on in this space through companies developing their own technologies or partnering. WAFS vendor DiskSites and Expand recently signed an OEM deal to combine capabilities, and Tacit and Packeteer are trying the same through a reseller deal. (See Virtualization Looms Large at LinuxWorld and Packeteer Gives Tacit Approval.)

Do users care if it’s called WAFS or WAN optimization, as long as their files transfer faster to remote sites? Probably not.

Donald Wong, VP of digital media technologies at Sony, says his company uses 23 of Orbital’s 5500 series to send digital files of movies to remote sites around the world for collaboration. Now he’s adding three of the new boxes so he can take advantage of the same infrastructure to send Windows-based files to remote offices.

“Now we’re focused on digital media assets,” Wong says. “The upgrade will allow us to expand to reports, financial information, and other non-digital media assets. It’s a good way to leverage something we’ve already paid for.”Sony has made a hefty investment. The list price for remote devices is $5,000, and the data center box starts at $21,000. But Sony is a $7 billion business, and Wong says optimizing the WAN sure beats the old way of sending film and tape by Federal Express.

“It could’ve been double or triple the price, and it would’ve been worth it,” he says.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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