By Ann Silverthorn
—Packeteer, which specializes in WAN optimization, this week signed a definitive agreement to acquire Tacit Networks, a company that specializes in wide-area file services (WAFS) and WAN optimization, for approximately $78 million. The purchase is a market expansion opportunity for Packeteer, adding branch-office server consolidation to its WAN optimization offerings.
Tacit's WAFS product, Ishared, allows branch offices to eliminate their e-mail and file servers by consolidating them in the data center. Packeteer's WAN optimization product, PacketShaper, allows companies to manage their WAN traffic, compress data, and increase acceleration on TCP/IP links.
The companies had already announced a strategic alliance in September 2005, which consisted of joint sales and marketing, certified interoperability, a cooperative support agreement, and joint development (see "Tacit, Packeteer link WAFS, WAN optimization").
"The end-user community was telling vendors like Tacit that WAFS was necessary, but not sufficient," says Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst with the Taneja Group, which coined the term "WAFS." "Remote offices have more than just file servers. They have e-mail servers, Exchange servers, and a variety of other applications that need to be accelerated," he adds.
In March 2006, Tacit added its own home-grown WAN optimization feature, ARC, to its Ishared 3.0 WAFS software and appliances, which Packeteer considers complementary to its own WAN optimization technology (see "Tacit combines WAFS and WAN optimization"). Tacit's WAN optimization technology is one of the reasons Packeteer pursued the acquisition, according to Mark Urban, director of product marketing for Packeteer.
"There is some overlap between the two technologies in TCP acceleration and compression, but Tacit's data-reduction dictionary is disk-based and Packeteer's is RAM memory-based," says Urban. "The disk-based dictionary is a good complement to ours for very large types of bulk data transfers and data with very large patterns that can be matched and needs hard disk space in order to provide good results."
PacketShaper and Ishared will remain separate products in the short term, with the first priority being a central management console for companies that want to use both solutions. Further down the line, Packeteer will modularize the software on appliances and customize it for specific sites.
"The Tacit Ishared product is particularly useful for collaborative file environments and server consolidation, while Packeteer's products have been used mostly in transactional applications, recreational traffic, and voice over IP [VoIP]," says Urban.
Along with Tacit's technology, its partnerships made it attractive to Packeteer. In May 2005, Tacit and Brocade announced a strategic relationship to deliver WAFS to enterprise customers on Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2003 platform, through Brocade's Tapestry product family (see "Brocade partners with Tacit for WAFS"). Since Brocade has a minority ownership share in privately held Tacit, Packeteer's announcement of a strategic relationship with Brocade came as no surprise. Brocade will be Packeteer's exclusive OEM distributor for WAFS products.
Packeteer also intends to leverage Tacit's April 2005 partnership with Microsoft to combine Windows-based WAFS with Microsoft's storage technologies in Windows Server 2003 and Windows Storage Server 2003. That combination allowed enterprises to give branch offices worldwide access to centrally managed file, print, network, and management services while consolidating server and storage resources into the data center.
Similarly, Urban says Packeteer plans to "continue forward on a positive basis" with Softricity, which Tacit partnered with in November 2005 to give branch-office users on-demand access to centralized, consolidated Windows applications via WANs at LAN speeds (see "Tacit, Softricity partner on WAN-enabled Windows apps") .
Packeteer joins other vendors combining WAFS and WAN optimization (sometimes referred to as WAN acceleration), including Cisco, Expand Networks, Juniper, Riverbed, McData (a Riverbed OEM), and Signiant.
Expand Networks has OEM'd DiskSites' WAFS software for the Expand Compass WAN-optimization platform since August 2005. [On May 15, 2006, Expand Networks announced that it signed an agreement to acquire privately held DiskSites.]
Other representative WAFS vendors include F5 and Availl. Other WAN optimization vendors include BlueCoat, Certeon, Ciena, Citrix, Coyote Point Systems, and Silver Peak.