By Kevin Komiega
—Cisco introduced new additions to its branch-office product family today, including an integrated hardware and software solution that promises to aid in the consolidation of branch-office server, storage, and backup systems and boost the performance of TCP-based applications across WANs.
The new package combines Cisco's recently released Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) networking software, which enables WAN optimization, application acceleration, and wide area file services (WAFS) functionality and a new network module for running the WAAS software on Cisco's Integrated Services Router (ISR).
The WAAS offering uses WAFS technology and WAN optimization techniques, including data compression, redundancy elimination, transport optimization, caching, and content distribution to keep branch-office applications humming. Cisco claims its WAAS solution overcomes WAN latency, thereby letting IT organizations consolidate distributed branch servers, storage, and backup systems without suffering slow application performance.
Mark Weiner, Cisco's director of marketing for application solutions, says the new branch office package is built on Cisco's existing WAFS technology and now allows current customers to better manage IT operations in remote locations by taking advantage of the Cisco networking products they already have installed.
"We have integrated this very carefully so that customers can extend the Cisco architecture out to the branch office without having to change the way they configure their networks or the way they do business," says Weiner.
Cisco is betting that a large number of its more than one million ISR hardware customers with remote-office locations will take advantage of the new network module, but the company is also offering the WAAS solution as a standalone appliance based on Cisco's Wide-Area Application Engine (WAE) line of network appliances.
The WAAS technology is designed to work in tandem with Cisco's Application Networking Service to transparently support thousands of branch offices and millions of TCP connections with potential performance of up to 16Gbps in a load-balanced deployment.
Cisco's argument for the need for WAAS technology is that the major obstacle facing most enterprise consolidation and centralization projects is the impact of latency and application performance over the WAN, and it's an argument shared by competitors such as Brocade, Packeteer, and Riverbed, each of which offers some combination of WAFS and WAN optimization appliances and software for branch-office IT management.
Cisco's WAAS solution includes the WAAS software and the WAE appliances, as well as new network modules (WAE-NMs) that integrate with several models of Cisco's ISRs, such as the 2800, 3700, and 3800 series. Pricing for the appliance-based branch office solution starts at $8,500; network modules will be available later this year starting at $4,000.