By Ann Silverthorn
—Tacit Networks has added WAN optimization to wide area file services (WAFS) with the 3.0 release of its IShared software for enterprise branch, remote, and small office/home office (SOHO) locations. In addition to WAFS and WAN optimization, the Windows-based solution includes Exchange e-mail services and Windows-based branch-office IT services.
The new capabilities will be available as either a software-based solution on industry-standard hardware platforms or on the standard IShared appliance platform
"Until now Tacit allowed users to consolidate multiple servers, such as file, print, and authentication servers, onto the IShared product," says Noah Breslow, vice president of marketing and product management for Tacit. "The major new feature for 3.0 is WAN optimization. We're taking some of the technologies we've already developed for WAFS and extending them to support all TCP-based apps. The general-purpose optimizations for TCP accelerate Web traffic, FTP or replication application, and collaboration application, such as Microsoft SharePoint and Lotus Notes."
Tacit joins other vendors combining WAFS and WAN optimization (sometimes referred to as WAN acceleration), including Cisco, Expand Networks, Juniper, Riverbed, McData (Riverbed OEM), and Signiant. Expand Networks OEMs its WAFS offering from DiskSites. Incidentally, Brocade invested heavily in Tacit last year to add Tacit's WAFS product to the Brocade portfolio.
Tacit has dubbed its WAN optimization technology "ARC" (Acceleration, Reduction, and Compression), which accelerates the TCP protocol by providing local acknowledgements and WAN re-transmissions to reduce the impact of network latency and packet loss. For the data reduction piece, it eliminates redundant transfers over the WAN by analyzing traffic flow and transmitting references to repeated data patterns rather than the data itself. Tacit claims compression ratios of up to 100:1 and applies data aggregation techniques to compress data.
Breslow says Tacit's differentiator is found in its Windows compatibility: "We introduced the Windows product a year after our Linux product and now the Windows product comprises the vast majority of our sales. This compatibility is beneficial as protocols change and evolve, and it facilitates integration of end-to-end security and management schemes."
Other features of IShared 3.0 include remote-device failover and support for Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2. If a device fails at a remote office, it can fail-over to a remote device that's clustered with it. Also, an entire network of remote offices can be flipped over to a secondary data center. Breslow says Microsoft Server 2003 R2 has an improved replication engine and file and print management schemes.
Customers who currently have a standard maintenance agreement will receive version 3.0 with their next software upgrade. The integrated appliances will start shipping next month. The SOHO appliance for fewer than five users starts at about $4,500. The appliance designed for larger branch offices is priced from approximately $7,500.
Other representative WAFS vendors include F5 and Availl. Other WAN optimization vendors include BlueCoat, Ciena, and Certeon.