Expand Networks: WAN Acceleration Goes Virtual
After Interop, I met on a conference call with David White, the VP of Business Development (he worked at Fore Systems in the late 1990s and was responsible for the Fore-Nortel relationship. My former employer's carrier team were reselling the LAN switch into AT&T) and Amy Peraza, the VP of Marketing at Expand Networks.
The private, VC-backed Israeli-American company operates in 90 countries and has 165 employees. Founded in 1998, the company was a pioneer in the WAN optimization market. They combined technologies for acceleration and compression and are capable of delivering WAN file services as well as Quality of Service features that compress & accelerate the WAN data, leaving the real-time RTP streams for VoIP and Video over IP and RDP streams for terminal services to transit the network without delay and with high priority.
More recently (January 2008), the company partnered with H3C, the Chinese engineering subsidiary of 3Com, to position their acceleration capability directly as a blade in the 3Com Multi-Service Router. The original H3C design enabled the insertion of an open source computing blade directly into the chassis of the 3Com MSR, which formed an excellent platform for the local image of the Expand Networks software called Accelerator Operating System. This globally available product is supported by H3C in China, 3Com internationally, and other OEM partners too (I may recall NEC and Siemens may be rebadging these products too).
David tells me that the core of the optimization application is a combination of IP based (L3) compression, TCP Acceleration (L4) and QoS (L3-L7). Application plug-ins (L4-L7) are used to optimize specific applications and protocols (such as ICA, RDP, HTTP, FTP, CIFS, etc.). TCP acceleration particularly using low latency, lossless techniques that work on all applications and consistently deliver effective bandwidth increases up to 1,000 percent. Expand's technology can combat congestion, prioritize traffic, mark packets for downstream QoS handling, and rate control shaping to make sure flows get the bandwidth that users demand.
This is a 2-sided solution, so both the central server and the remote branch work together to compress and accelerate their communications streams very, very quickly.
At Interop, Expand Networks announced the licensing of the AOS software as a VMWare application on the VMware ESX and VMware Server platforms. This allows customers to consolidate servers and appliances in the data center through VMware implementations today, and other solutions in the coming months. Dubbed Virtual WAN (VWAN) Optimization, the application will also work on virtual appliances in branch offices, allowing IT staff to reduce the number of special purpose computers or appliances required to be supported in remote offices.
Clearly, enabling the virtualization of branch and data center resources contributes positively to reducing demands for power, cooling and remote physical support services.
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