Dispelling myths: The truth about WAFS

As WAFS products roll out across the country, users must figure out which approach works best in their environments.

As wide-area file services (WAFS) suppliers trade insults over the limitations of each other's products, users are fighting through the noise to figure out which of these technologies actually works best to connect remote office with the corporate data center.

[Ed note: For a more in-depth look at which products are suited to your environment and how this market is shaping up check out our Tech Roundup on WAFS here.]

What's in a name?
One of the biggest problems with WAFS is the name, and analysts are quick to note that the WAFS moniker leaves much to be desired. WAFS focuses on improving the performance of remote applications, and this has prompted some vendors to adopt alternative terms like "wide-area application optimization" or "wide-area application services." Other vendors use a more function-oriented term like "branch-office optimization." Gartner's latest term for this technology is "branch-office box."  It's important to clarify such terminology with a prospective vendor.
Vendors are making strides in winning users and moving the technology forward. Riverbed Technology Inc. claimed its 500th customer this week and is set to introduce a cheaper, smaller version of its Steelhead appliance while Tacit Networks Inc. raised the bar last week with the acquisition of Mobiliti Inc. and the introduction of the Ishared Mini.

However, analysts warn that WAFS is not a technology to be implemented lightly. "It changes your entire storage strategy and forces a rearchitecting of IT," said Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting.

Schenck Business Solutions in Appleton, Wisc., evaluated WAFS products about 18 months ago and found incompatibility issues between Citrix encryption and WAN compression. Jim Tarala, chief information officer for Schenck, said that assuming the incompatibilities have been addressed, he's willing to take another look at the technology. "We're trying to foster better collaboration by making data more available firm wide," he said. "Wherever [an employee] ends up on a day-to-day basis, their data should be available."

For more information, see the article; Tech Report: Protect remote-office data.

For a more in-depth look at which products are suited to your environment and how this market is shaping up check out our Tech Roundup on WAFS here.

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