WAN Acceleration & WAFS Take New Turn

WAFS and WAN acceleration are figuring more prominently in data management

February 5, 2008

5 Min Read
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A whole raft of recent announcements underlines the growing importance of WAFS and WAN acceleration to data management -- a trend driven, at least in part, by social networking, Web 2.0, entertainment applications, and the current boom in software-as-a-service (SaaS).

With the likes of Facebook and YouTube now part of daily life, there is a growing need for technologies that can speed up applications over the WAN, according to Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Bowker.

"The growth that we're really seeing is around files. It's Word documents, PowerPoints, video files, audio files -- a lot of it is Web 2.0 stuff," Bowker says. "These Web 2.0 companies consume a lot of [network] capacity. Look at the amount of data that gets dumped on Facebook."

Users at the sharp end of providing online services to multiple customers are only too aware of this challenge. "Things like WAN acceleration are areas where I see placing a lot of focus as time moves forward," says Stephen O'Neill, vice president of technology at search engine specialist Oversee.net. "With the cost of bandwidth now, if I run a WAN acceleration product, I get more bang per buck across my dedicated wires."

With end-users also expecting split-second response times for Web 2.0 applications, vendors are eyeing opportunities in this space. Here's a sampling of recent announcements about WAFS and WAN acceleration that highlight the sector's growth:F5 and Acopia
F5 today took the wraps off its first product based on the file virtualization technology it acquired when it bought Acopia for $210 million last year, unveiling the latest version of its Freedom Fabric operating system.

"A lot of the initiatives out there like Web 2.0 are driving file growth," explains Nigel Burmeister, F5's senior product marketing manager. "File is like the untamed Wild West, compared to block storage."

With the launch of FreedomFabric 3.0, F5 has tapped into Acopia's ability to perform virtual snapshots on NAS systems. "It's basically data protection for virtual storage environments," explains Burmeister. "We can take snapshots of a virtual namespace, or of a virtual file system or a virtual volume."

The upgraded OS, which runs on F5's ARX switches, is just the first phase in the vendor's broader strategy to add file virtualization to other F5 products, such is its WANjet offering.

F5, which is up against Brocade's NuView, EMC's Rainfinity, NetApp's OnTap GX, and Attune in the file virtualization space, also unveiled its FreedomFabric Network Manager software today. "It will go out and discover the file servers and configure the switches," explains Burmeister. "This gives an admin a single view across all of the file servers."F5 customer Oversee.net tells Byte and Switch that the Network Manager software represents a step in the right direction: "Previously, I had to manage each Acopia switch separately, now I can manage them through a single point -- for ease of management, that's a good thing."

Version 3.0 of F5's FreedomFabric OS is available for free to current users of the vendor's ARX switches, though pricing for the Network Manager software starts at $3,500 for a cluster of two switches. Both software modules are available now.

Signiant and the NFL

It is not just Web 2.0 and online media firms that are turning to WAN acceleration. Cue the NFL Network, which is using Signiant's WAN acceleration technology to transfer game footage for broadcast on shows like NFL Replay.

The NFL Network uses Signiant to transfer around 50 hours of footage each week across a WAN spanning some 3,000 miles. This film is then edited into NFL Replay, a 90-minute highlights show.

The Burlington, Mass.-based vendor, whose local team was on the losing side in last night's Super Bowl, touts its Digital Media Distribution software family as a way for broadcasters, filmmakers, online media companies, and service providers to avoid network bottlenecks and free up bandwidth.Specifically, the vendor claims that its Managed Accelerator software can transfer data up to 200 times faster than traditional TCP/IP protocols. Signiant has also rolled out a version of its Managed Accelerator specifically designed for companies transferring large files between systems from media storage specialist Avid.

The trend highlighted by F5 and Signiant makes perfect sense to StorageIO Group analyst Greg Schulz. "Its not surprising," he says. "To overcome network latency and boost bandwidth to access or move more data remotely, something needs to be done."


The networking giant, which bought file virtualization specialist NeoPath for an undisclosed sum last year, is also cranking up its application acceleration strategy.

Last month, for example, Cisco extended its family of Application Network Services (ANS) products. These include the ACE 4710 application acceleration switch and the Data Center Assurance Program (DCAP) for testing acceleration of applications such as Microsoft and Oracle.

ESG analyst Bowker acknowledges that Cisco is worth keeping an eye on but says that other vendors are also ramping up their app delivery efforts. "Watch out for Micrsosoft. Their announcement with Citrix around virtualization is all about delivering applications to the end-user... What Microsoft has done well is deliver Word-type applications, and they are now going to try delivering other types of applications," he notes, adding that this will include the likes of billing and other internal apps.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Acopia Networks Inc.

  • Attune Systems Inc.

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • NeoPath Networks

  • Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL)

  • Signiant Corp.

  • The StorageIO Group

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