Cisco beefing up WAFS

WAAS update promises faster apps, file transfers

Cisco Systems is stepping up to the plate in the highly competitive application acceleration game, banking on technology and a lot of end-to-end network expertise to set it apart from other players.

The company will announce on Tuesday that it is beefing up the WAFS (Wide-Area File Services) software it introduced last year so it can speed up application transactions and file transfers. It is also adding compression and other techniques so application traffic won’t take up so much network bandwidth, said Mark Weiner, director of marketing for application solutions at Cisco.

Also this week, the company is set to roll out WAAS (Wide-Area Application Services) software, as well as more powerful versions of its WAE (Wide-Area Application Engine) appliances on which to run it. There will also be a WAAS module for Cisco’s Integrated Services Router.

Wide-area bandwidth is expensive, and software overhead can slow down applications even on a fat pipe. Wide-area file services allow companies to speed up the performance of those applications by caching copies of files locally and then managing updates and changes. Cisco competes with companies such as Juniper, which purchased WAFS vendor Peribit, and Riverbed, an application acceleration startup that enhanced its software and appliances last week and is aiming to go public.

Cisco is late to the game with some of its new technology, but it can offer peace of mind by making the products work smoothly with a Cisco infrastructure, said Eric Siegel, an analyst at Burton Group.

Pairing up Cisco gear worked well for the city of Fort Wayne, Ind., which wants to use WAAS to speed up communication with some of its fire stations, said CIO Clifford Clarke. WAAS seems to have performed better with Fort Wayne’s Cisco network than did other vendors’ products, he said.

Harold Hamm, vice president of IT at architecture firm Reynolds, Smith and Hills, said he couldn’t buy the kind of WAN bandwidth he’d need to match his test results with the new gear. “Once a big file gets cached on a local server, it’s like working on a LAN,” he said.