New products from a pair of WAN optimization vendors could be the beginning of a movement by vendors to offer enterprise-level WAN optimization and application acceleration products to support road warriors and teleworkers.
To date, appliances designed to boost the performance of centralized Web applications and consolidated file servers and storage have focused on serving larger branch offices with between 15 and 100 users.
But with some large enterprises poised this year to deploy thousands of performance-boosting appliances, Tacit Networks on Jan. 24 added a small- footprint appliance designed to support five or fewer users. And Orbital Data added a Windows client that works with a centralized data center appliance to extend the benefits of its unique brand of WAN optimization to road warriors and remote workers.
With the rush to consolidate IT assets into centralized data centers continuing unabated and the continued Webification of enterprise applications, the need for improving the performance of applications that were never intended to operate over slow-speed WAN links is growing.
Current Tacit Ishared Enterprise users at Silicon Laboratories—which has a data center consolidation project under way to reduce footprint, maximize use of head count and improve accountability for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act—found a huge improvement in the time it takes to open and save files, according to Ed Golden, network administrator for the Austin, Texas, company.
"A standard 2.5MB Excel spreadsheet over a T-1 link with standard latency of 250 milliseconds—youre talking a little over 5 minutes to open a file [from a remote office in Singapore]," said Golden. "With the Tacit box before [files are] cached, its 14 seconds—4 seconds once its cached."
Tacit, which on Jan. 24 introduced the Ishared Mini WAFS (wide-area file services) appliance for up to five users in a small branch office, was able to reduce the time it takes to save that same file from 5 minutes to 17 seconds, Golden said.
The new Ishared Mini provides access to remote file, print and e-mail servers, functions as a domain controller, and delivers DNS (Domain Name System) and DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) services.
With deployments of such appliances now numbering in the 2,000 to 5,000 range, "Tacit is in the right place at the right time, because people are looking to go beyond pilots to really big implementations," said Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa in Fremont, Calif. "As you scale up, the impact of a few thousand dollars is huge. I expect to see low-cost disk-based branch nodes from multiple WAFS vendors this quarter."
As for boosting the performance of Web-enabled enterprise applications for road warriors and teleworkers, Orbital Datas new OrbitalEdge offering may not be the first client, but it could "force the issue," said Skorupa. "Everybody recognizes you have to have a mobile client."
In fact, small players such as Stampede Technologies and Intelligent Compression Technologies have had clients in the market, and larger players such as Citrix Systems with its NetScaler acquisition and F5 Networks have had simple clients.
"We see the need for our client expanding. Customers want to do everything in their power to ensure quality of service for their users," said Eric Giesa, vice president of product management at F5 Networks, in Seattle. "Well be looking at [improving F5s client] as well."
But others, such as Radware, are avoiding implementing a client and instead are focusing on server-side optimizations. Radware, which acts on the specific content and attributes of the application session, is looking to add application-specific optimizations to its data center appliance over the next several months, company officials said.
The company also offers a small branch-office appliance priced at about $4,000, but it does not implement WAFS.
New OrbitalEdge users at Smith International, an oil drilling bit supplier, found that the offering reduced the round-trip time for data transfer from 10 to 2 seconds, according to David Moran, director of application development, in Houston.
"Our primary interest is in moving XML-formatted information efficiently across low-bandwidth connections from drilling rig field locations to a data hub for processing. Having both the compression/acceleration and the encryption in one single tool was a no-brainer for me," Moran said.
Separately, Tacit also announced its acquisition of Mobiliti, a privately held company that provides virtual networking, backup and synchronization, and WAN optimization software for Windows desktops.