WAN Plus Storage Equals Opportunity

Earlier this month, NetEx, a 26-year-old developer of proprietary WAN technology that has traditionally focused on direct sales to government and institutional accounts, made its first-ever foray into the channel.

The Minneapolis-based company's first formal channel program includes a 45 percent discount on registered deals and the ability to get incremental revenue from sales of software keys that increase the bandwidth of its HyperIP WAN optimization appliances, which can enable WAN performance to scale from 10 Mbps to 622 Mbps.

This is more good news for storage solution providers looking to increase sales of their wares to companies boosting the capabilities of their WANs. WAN-acceleration appliances like these, and the storage services they allow, are proving to be a wide-open frontier for solution providers. Whether for storage efficiency, data center consolidation or disaster recovery, the opportunities to put storage on a WAN are only starting, solution providers say, and upcoming changes in WAN technology will only add to them.

"Early adopters didn't have a choice. They needed to do it," said Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider. "But now other companies have realized they can pull data into their central data centers and manage it there. Customers want to gain control of their data."

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It is an area that continues to expand for the channel as vendors look for help in expanding the market.

Dan Carson, vice president of marketing and business development at Open Systems Solutions, a Willow Grove, Pa.-based storage solution provider, said that while most midrange and enterprise customers have implemented WANs, the market for WAN-acceleration appliances for centralizing and managing data is far from saturated.

"Midrange to high-end companies are just now looking at disaster recovery and remote replication," Carson said. "This is real and growing."

The two main opportunities to bring storage onto a WAN are disaster recovery and remote office consolidation, Carson said.

A lot of companies are looking at using WAN-acceleration appliances to set up disaster-recovery sites, Carson said. "One of the main IT infrastructure costs is the cost of the 'pipe,' " he said. "The more you can use it, the better. WAN-acceleration appliances, combined with tools like software from CommVault [Systems] for remote replication, makes it easy to do remote disaster recovery."

Many of those companies also do not have the IT staff to handle storage management and data backups in remote sites, leading many of them to use WAN acceleration to consolidate their data into a central data center, Carson said.

"By centralizing their backups to a central site, they don't have to worry about whether backups are being done or not," he said. "And it frees up the need for IT people to handle the remote sites."

A wide range of established vendors and startups are offering equipment to build WANs and accelerate applications and data movement over those WANs. For many, WAN technology applicable to data storage has come via acquisitions.

Brocade, for instance, acquired Therion in 2005 for handling server images over a WAN, as well as NuView last year for its StorageX technology for migrating, replicating and tiering storage over a WAN. Brocade's Tapestry wide-area file services (WAFS) technology comes as a result of an OEM deal with Cupertino, Calif.-based Packeteer, which last year acquired WAFS developer Tacit Networks, in which Brocade had invested.

Cisco Systems in 2005 acquired WAFS technology developer FineGround Networks, a year after introducing its first WAFS appliance from its 1994 acquisition of Actona.

Juniper Networks in 2005 acquired Peribit Networks, a WAN optimization appliance maker, and Redline Networks, an application acceleration device vendor.

Brocade's WAFS appliances provide LAN-like read and write access to data over a WAN, said Mike Schmitt, product marketing manager for file services. Those appliances natively support protocols like Common Internet File System (CIFS) for remote file access in Windows environments, Schmitt said.

"This allows VARs to simply come in and introduce software without needing to rearchitect the software," he said.

Consolidating data into a central data center is only part of a storage solution, Schmitt said. By combining its StorageX technology with WAFS, it allows data to be migrated and replicated and tiered.

Next: What Other Vendors Are Doing With WAN-Plus-Storage

Packeteer offers technologies focused on application acceleration over distributed networks, including WAFS technology. These include iShared, which enables storage and server consolidation for branch offices and SOHOs using WAFS, and PacketShaper, which optimizes WAN applications including IP telephony and IP traffic, said Mark Urban, director of product marketing at Packeteer.

Packeteer recently introduced its SkyX Accelerator 750 WAN accelerator for OC12 WAN links to accelerate data at rates of up to 622 Mbps, which it said cuts the time needed for a 100-Gbyte backup to 26 minutes from 11 hours. Going forward, Packeteer expects to consolidate its iShared and PacketShaper technologies into a single function, Urban said.

Cisco is taking advantage of its more than 2 million Integrated Services Routers that have already been installed to offer what it calls wide-area application services, or WAAS, said Mark Weiner, director of data center market management.

Cisco's WAAS strategy includes WAFS, application acceleration and WAN optimization, all as part of a holistic solution via stand-alone appliances and modules that attach to its routers, Weiner said.

Juniper is also seeing strong growth for its WAN-acceleration products related to storage, especially for compliance purposes, said Bobby Guhasarkar, senior manager of product marketing for the company's application accelerator products.

"Customers need to keep their backup times to a minimum so their backups can be as close to their realtime data as possible," Guhasarkar said.

Guhasarkar said his company is working on consolidating more functionality on its WAN-acceleration products. For instance, its J-series branch routing platform currently includes a voice services gateway using Avaya technology, and security capabilities such as antivirus, antispam, firewall and VPN. Later this year, it will add WAN optimization to the router, Guhasarkar said.

Riverbed Technology, San Francisco, offers a line of appliances featuring its Wide Area Data Services (WADS) platform, which integrates application acceleration, WAN optimization, WAFS, quality of service, traffic shaping and Web caching, said Alan Saldich, vice president of product marketing and alliances.

This summer, Riverbed plans to release a client version of its appliance that will let mobile users access data from inside their company from any location, assuming Riverbed technology is used in its corporate data center, Saldich said.

Dave Cerniglia, president of Consiliant Technologies, an Irvine, Calif., storage solution provider, said that each customer's storage requirements differ, and so there are opportunities for the channel to work with multiple vendors.

For instance, a customer with a Windows environment might want to use the Brocade appliance, or it might prefer to add the Packeteer software to a Dell server to offer much the same functionality, Cerniglia said. Cisco, on the other hand, offers a more encompassing solution, but it is not a native Windows device, he said.

"To be successful in the channel, you need to be able to adapt," Cerniglia said. "This is an area where you need to be knowledgeable. People are looking at storage on the WAN, and looking at how it can save them money."