The drive for more bandwidth does not slow - even in a global recession some reports show bandwidth needs increasing at rates higher than 100% per year on carrier and enterprise networks. The trend towards more collaborative applications, video, VoIP and cloud-based services are no doubt just a few factors in what seems to be just the beginning of a global bandwidth binge showing no sign of slowing.
Enter Expand a company focusing on application acceleration over WANs who is looking to help solve the branch office bandwidth drought. The company makes its living selling a variety of appliances which they say will increase ROI and stretch IT budgets further. These devices are optimized for datacenters, branch offices and regional offices.
The company counts Fidelity National Insurance, Piconol, Antarctica NZ, Targus, DISA and Evans Fruit Company as some of its customers and has partnered with Vision Solutions to provide more efficient disaster recovery services.
At Interop 2009 in Las Vegas, the company unveiled a new solution they hope will become widely deployed on global networks. Simply put they have unveiled a free Mobile Accelerator Client which gives some of the benefits of an appliance but at a much lower cost. Well actually it is free so you don't get much cheaper. The catch? There is always a catch right? Well not really - you just pay for maximal concurrent users.
How is the performance you wonder? The graph below was provided to me to give an indication. Freestyle means you are alone, Collective means you are sharing a virtual cache and Slipstream means you are utilizing an appliance.
In order to get an idea how the mobile client works you need to better understand Expand Networks and their approach to WAN optimization. They have developed a technology called HIVE which is a clever acronym which stands for Heterogeneous Intelligent Virtual Environment.
The H in Hive tells us that the solution works on various platforms. If you are hoping one of the platforms supported is Apple, keep waiting as XP, Vista and Windows 7 are the only ones on the list so far.
The I standsfor intelligent and of course the software is smart - butone could argue in fact that all software is smart. Except perhaps for applications that let you turn your mobile phone into a virtual beer.
The V standsfor virtual and in this case is actually a solid descriptive word - not just marketing as the mobile client uses p2p technology to enable a branch office with multiple clients to take advantage of a pooled virtual cache. So if Donny in HR downloads a 10 gigabyte video file which five other users need later in the week, you can all tap into the file from Donny's computer rather that all wasting network bandwidth by downloading the file again and again. And you thought Donny had nothing to offer. ;)
I almost forgot - the E stands for environment meaning the software knows if it is in a branch office without a nearby appliance or in the home office where there is an appliance or alone by its lonesome. In each case it adapts and utilizes a byte and object level cache to maximize performance.
As you might imagine, the system knows how to allocate bandwidth according to your QoS policies - it is Intelligent after all.
I spent some time with company representatives David White, Efi Gatmor and Adam Davison as they told me about their product and shared the benefits of their HIVE technology for information technology decision-makers worldwide and mentioned that the software can be rolled our via silent install using an MSI package if desired.
One point the trio made which is important to repeat is that in a typical branch office which does not have technology to take advantage of a shared cache, you can have clients competing with each other for bandwidth as they are utterly blind to the needs and presence of the other clients. When you think about it, a shared cache is infinitely logical and as the need for more bandwidth increases we can expect this sort of technology to be deployed in more and more corporate branches.
As companies roll out more cloud computing applications and install IP communications solutions, focus on compliance and centralized backups, we can only expect the opportunity for Expand Networks dare I say - to Expand?