Cisco Goes Wide for File Services

by Clint Boulton

The networking giant releases its appliance to streamline stored data on a network.

Cisco Systems trotted out a network appliance that quickly simplifies the management and storage of files located in branch offices.

Using software it owns from its August purchase of Actona Technologies, Cisco has created the File Engine Series to provide its own brand of wide area file services (WAFS).

Cisco's wide area file services allows companies to consolidate storage and server infrastructure, such as file and print servers or tape back-up devices, from the branch or the edge into the data center, said John Henze, director of marketing for Cisco's caching services business unit.

The challenges of managing data growth in a distributed environment are well documented, Henze said, quoting an IDC report that found that as much as 60 percent of a company's data sits outside its data center and resides at the edges on file servers, desktops or laptops.

"Trying to do that in a distributed environment where you have dozens or hundreds of offices with little to no IT resources on those branch offices becomes a very complex and costly problem for companies," Henze told internetnews.com.

To solve these issues, the File Engine stores master copies of files where they can be protected and managed with the other gear in the data center. By using one device, Henze said customers who use the File Engine can shore up their network defense, as well as ease some of the data transmission pain caused by latency.

The File Engine includes an Edge File Engine, which is deployed at each branch office, replacing file and print servers and giving desktops and laptops fast file access. The Core File Engine is deployed at the data center and connects to one or more file servers or network attached storage (NAS) gateways, processing file requests on behalf of each Edge File Engine.

Cisco is selling its File Engine now with a list price of $12,000, including a license to support up to 50 branch office users. License packs for an additional 50 users cost $4,500.

An emerging technology niche, WAFS overcomes performance issues associated with standard file access protocols, such as Common Internet File System (CIFS) for Microsoft Windows environments and Network Files System (NFS) for Unix environments.

Until the technology appeared in the last couple of years or so, there was no quality way to solve the latency issues involved in accessing files over long distances. That is quickly changing: Companies such as Cisco and standalone rival Tacit Networks extol the virtues of WAFS, and each intends to corner the nascent market.

This article was originally published on Tuesday Dec 14th 2004