BY KEVIN KOMIEGA
The tumultuous economy is not slowing the growth of wide area file services (WAFS) and wide area network (WAN) optimization technologies, as vendors continue to flesh out management features and hope bandwidth consolidation efforts lead to more sales.
When combined with WAN optimization and acceleration, WAFS products improve and accelerate data access over distances, providing branch office locations and remote users LAN-like performance while allowing IT organizations to store, manage, and protect corporate data in the data center.
Forrester Research analyst Chris Silva says 40% of IT organizations anticipate increased spending in 2009, a large portion of which will be allocated to bandwidth. This bodes well for WAFS and WAN optimization vendors as IT attempts to drive cost out of the data center.
"Companies are looking for ways to do more with less," says Silva. "WAN optimization and acceleration technologies can help users reduce non-critical traffic over the WAN, reduce the number of links between sites, downgrade link size, and take out redundancy."
Silva expects WAFS and WAN optimization vendors will be "heads down" this year as they attempt to enhance their products.
"The only changes in the market landscape are being driven by vendors looking to improve their offerings," says Silva. "This will be a year of the solutions gravitating toward affinity groups."
Silva's prediction is already becoming a reality. A pair of WAFS/WAN optimization vendors kicked off 2009 by acquiring technologies that will put more intelligence into their respective product lines.
For example, Riverbed Technology recently completed its $25 million acquisition of Mazu Networks, a privately-owned company that specializes in managing, securing, and optimizing the availability and performance of global applications.
Riverbed plans to integrate Mazu's technology to extend its suite of WAN optimization products to include global application performance reporting and analytics. The Mazu products, which have been renamed Cascade, analyze network traffic to provide information about the interactions of and dependencies between users, applications, and systems.
Riverbed has also tuned its WAN optimization software and hardware appliances to support VMware virtual servers. The company revamped its entire product portfolio with upgrades to its operating system, mobile software, and the Riverbed Services Platform (RSP)—a platform for third-party software modules built on virtualization technology from VMware.
The enhancements to the RSP platform allow users to virtualize third-party software into Steelhead WAN optimization and acceleration appliances, eliminating the need for separate dedicated servers.
Riverbed is now OEMing VMware's virtual server technology, which allows Steel- head appliances to host a range of virtual services and consolidate file servers and application servers back to the data center, creating a "server-less" branch office.
Also on the acquisition front, application acceleration and file virtualization vendor F5 Networks has purchased the intellectual property of NAS and file virtualization software vendor Attune Systems.
F5 has yet to announce how and when it will integrate Attune's technology into its product line, but Rick Gillett, F5's vice president of data systems architecture, says there is potential for beefing up the company's management software.
Attune's flagship product was the Maestro File Manager FM5500 NAS virtualization appliance. The Maestro appliance provides a global namespace, allowing administrators to combine multiple physical volumes into one virtual volume. Maestro Policy IQ, the intelligence in Maestro File Manager, provides insight into server performance, capacity, and availability. It also has features for managing and moving file data across tiers. Data can be managed on a file-by-file basis, moving static files to lower-cost storage.
It remains to be seen which aspects of Maestro will find their way into F5's software and/or switches. Gillett believes customers will see benefits in the area of network-based data management.
Separately, F5 announced a set of software upgrades aimed at improved management automation, and network health monitoring capabilities for its Application Delivery Networks (AND). The company is now shipping a new version of F5 Enterprise Manager, which serves as the centralized management appliance for F5 BIG-IP devices.
In related news, Blue Coat Systems wrapped up its integration and acquisition of Packeteer late last year and has subsequently fleshed out its portfolio with new data protection, security, and management capabilities.
Blue Coat is now offering a software plug-in that makes traffic from its ProxySG appliances visible to Packeteer PacketShaper appliances for application identification and quality of service (QoS).
The company also released a new version of Blue Coat IntelligenceCenter software and upgrades for its PacketShaper appliances to extend the application visibility and control inherent in its solutions for Application Delivery Networks.
Rounding out the latest announcements, WAN acceleration specialist Silver Peak Systems' NX appliances have received EMC's E-Lab qualification to support Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) replication solutions over Brocade's Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) solution. The E-Lab nod makes the NX family the first WAN optimization appliances qualified by EMC to support SRDF/A and SRDF/DM data replication in both Ethernet and FCIP environments.