Brocade waves goodbye to WAFS

In the wake of Blue Coat's acquisition of Packeteer this week, Brocade reveals that last fall it quietly discontinued two products based on Packeteer technology -- WAFS and Branch File Manager.

After his company acquired wide area network (WAN) optimization rival Packeteer Inc. Monday, Blue Coat Systems Inc. CEO Brian NeSmith was asked on a conference call how the deal would affect Packeteer's relationship with Brocade Communications Systems Inc.

NeSmith said it was too soon to tell and that Packeteer's partnerships had little to do with BlueCoat's decision to buy it. As it turns out, there is no relationship between Brocade and Packeteer anymore. Brocade disclosed Tuesday that it quietly discontinued its two products based on Packeteer technology last November.

Brocade began selling a WAFS product after forging an OEM deal with remote office solutions provider Tacit Networks in 2005, and the relationship continued even after Packeteer acquired Tacit in 2006. Brocade also launched a Branch File Manager 2 product based on Tacit's WAFS last May. Branch File Manager combined WAFS with Brocade's StorageX file virtualization to provide remote CIFS access and to replicate branch office data to a main data center, but lasted only six months after failing to attract many customers.

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"Brocade also decided to end-of-life the Branch File Manager product [last November] at the same time that the company [discontinued] the WAFS product," wrote Brocade spokesperson Kathryn Craig in an email to "While WAN optimization and WAFS are complementary to Brocade's file management products, these are not solutions that play directly to Brocade's own strengths and core competencies. Brocade's strategy is to partner with WAFS and WAN optimization vendors, rather than sell/provide these products as part of our own portfolio."

Craig said that the discontinuation of Brocade WAFS was "based on the fact that the WAFS and WAN optimization markets are converging and our customers are looking for a much broader set of functionality beyond just WAFS for remote site IT management."

Branch File Manager was withdrawn "before we had a meaningful customer base," Craig wrote, adding that "Brocade is committed to supporting our existing WAFS customer base."

Analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group said that Brocade's relationship with Packeteer wasn't as strong as it had been with Tacit. "Once Packeteer acquired Tacit, there was less synergy," he said, pointing out that Tacit and Brocade were storage-focused companies, while Packeteer is network-focused. "Companies with different centricities think differently."

Taneja also said that there were product issues that Brocade decided were prohibitively expensive. Competitors have criticized the local file caching Packeteer relied on for CIFS acceleration as a risky approach that could lead to cache coherency issues across large numbers of sites.

Although Brocade has remained foremost a Fibre Channel switch vendor, dumping WAFS represents a change in tune from a year ago. When Brocade launched Branch File Manager, it still considered WAFS important to its budding file area network (FAN) framework. Brocade executives admitted their FAN sales were disappointing last quarter, accounting for less than 5% of total revenue. Still, last February they pledged to move ahead and add more FAN products.

Taneja, whose firm coined the term FAN, said the concept remains intact. "The WAFS piece of the puzzle is still alive and kicking in the industry," he said, pointing to Riverbed Technologies, which boasts more than 1,000 customers for WAN optimization and WAFS features. "The other elements of the framework are still very active within Brocade, such as StorageX and the [File Management Engine]."

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