WANs Shape Up for Storage

Storage needs are driving new features for WAN acceleration gear

March 26, 2005

3 Min Read
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Wide area networks (WANs) are increasingly important in storage networks, and a growing roster of products are striking out in new ways to improve how WANs handle backups and disaster recovery.

WAN optimization tools from the likes of Network Executive Software Inc. (NetEx), Peribit Networks Inc., and Swan Labs Corp. have been selling for months now (see WAN Accelerators Speed Up). These products, typically offered as appliances, use compression, special timing algorithms, and other techniques to enable synchronous or asynchronous replication over longer IP connections than ever before.

Now these tools are being taken to a new level. They're getting more closely connected with storage wares. And in at least one case, they're acquiring new application acceleration capabilities.

Swan Labs, for instance, claims customers are seeing two and three times the improvement in WAN performance with software options the company acquired with the purchase of Pivia last year (see Swan Labs Picks Up Pivia). Where Swan Labs provides network-based techniques like compression in its appliances, the Pivia software option, added to the appliance, addresses some of the application-specific traffic characteristics that can slow storage traffic on IP links.

"At the network level, you can compress and cache the data," says Andrew Foss, CEO of Swan Labs. "When you combine that with an understanding of the protocols in use, you can actually provide local acknowledgement and local service for much of the chattiness and serialization of the application itself, so you can get data flowing as quickly as possible."Swan Labs says Pivia's technology cuts down substantially on the kind of underlying protocol activity that accompanies IP traffic. So when remote customers use an intranet to view Web-based information, for example, they get faster response times than would be possible even with compression and/or offloading of TCP processes.

WAN optimizers are also getting more closely linked to storage kit. NetEx, for instance, recently announced interoperability certification with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) (see NetEx Earns IBM Compatibility ). This sort of compliance testing should help the vendor sell its solution in partnership with storage vendors, an important pathway to market. Indeed, NetEx has seen interest in its HyperIP WAN storage optimization device grow by an order of magnitude, much of it fueled by referrals from storage partners, according to VP of business development Bob MacIntyre.

NetEx also interoperates with products from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Maranti Networks Inc., and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), to name just a few.

NetEx is parlaying these certifications into more comprehensive, vendor-specific solutions. "We are actively engagedwith several storage and iSCSI switch vendors who are interested inaccelerating their replication applications over distance," writes MacIntyre in an email today.

Developments like these point to the increased use of the Internet as a storage pipeline. "IP is absolutely the most cost-effective way to get bandwidth and connectivity across the globe," says Swan Labs' Foss. "The price performance of networking and data transmission are so much better in the IP space than everything else, particularly when you look at Fibre Channel..."Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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