Brocade Invests Big in WAFS

UPDATED: Brocade Communications Systems believes in wide area
file services (WAFS), a storage technology that helps companies exchange
content between data centers and branch offices with little latency.


The switch maker agreed to invest $7.5 million in WAFS specialist Tacit
Networks for a minority ownership and will offer the startup’s WAFS
technology to its customers. Brocade has also agreed to market Tacit’s
system worldwide and assist in product development, lending its engineering,
field and technical teams to the cause.


Tacit’s WAFS system, which includes a server, operating system and remote
office appliances, helps
enterprises easily access files and applications from the data center.
Tacit’s OS runs Microsoft’s Windows Storage Server 2003 platform.


According to research firm Enterprise Strategy Group, nearly 75 percent of
an enterprise’s data resides outside the data center, putting it at greater
risk for loss or a hack attack. WAFS technology alleviates the risks by
limiting the attack points at remote offices.


Tacit President Chuck Foley said the deal indicates WAFS is an
accepted solution to the real problem of managing and sharing files among
several branch offices of a company. Tacit’s business is growing, he added.


“We have literally dozens of Fortune 500/Global 2000 customers; it’s
validation that like that make the bigger vendors like Brocade sit up, take
notice and invest,” Foley said in an e-mail exchange. “And, that investment
will drive deployments to even higher levels.”


Yankee Group analyst Stephanie Balaouras said companies promoting so-called
emerging technologies need to buddy up with a more established partner to
penetrate the mature storage market. It just so happens enterprise clients
have been looking for solutions to deal with remote office management, she
said.

“It’s interesting to see different vendors attack the same problem, and wide
area file services is one way to address the problem of remote management,”
Balaouras said in an interview.


The analyst also said the deal is indicative of a growing trend where
storage networking vendors like Brocade are becoming networking vendors.


“Storage itself is critical, but it’s now important to customers that you can
address issues beyond storage.”


To that end Tacit enjoys healthy competition from the granddaddy of
networking companies, Cisco Systems . The company jumped into the WAFS market last year, acquiring Actona Technologies last June.


Tacit also competes with smaller vendors Riverbed Technology and FineGround
Networks, which entered
the nascent market last month. FineGround hopes to differentiate itself by
offering customers only one appliance to centrally manage an entire
enterprise’s files.


Brocade’s endorsement bodes well for Tacit. Startups often rely on help from
or partnerships with larger vendors that find their particular brand of
technology useful.


Should a larger company seek to acquire Tacit, it would have to answer to
Brocade, a leading provider of switches that route data over storage area
networks .

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