WAFS attempts to soothe the problems of running popular apps over WANs

* Wide-area file services

Server consolidation is a hot topic. Companies of all sizes are looking at the advantages of consolidating servers out of branch offices and placing them into centralized data centers. The advantages of a centralized approach to server deployment are compelling: A centralized approach lowers the cost of the servers due to the economy of scale that results from centralization. Because there are fewer servers, this also reduces the cost of the relevant software licenses, support and real estate.

Microsoft is an example of a company that has recently gone through a server and data center consolidation initiative. The goal was to improve the operational efficiency of the IT organization while simultaneously reducing the total cost of ownership. According to Microsoft, this initiative resulted in a 40% reduction in spending and a 25% increase in service-level agreement performance.

In addition to the desire to reduce cost, virtually every company is under growing pressure to improve security and to comply with myriad government and industry regulations. It is extremely difficult to secure a company's data, or to ensure the quality and consistency of that data, if it is dispersed across servers in multiple branch offices. As a result, another key driver of server consolidation is the requirement to provide effective security and auditable compliance.

However, there is a well-known problem associated with server consolidation. In particular, many Microsoft applications, such as Outlook, Word and PowerPoint, rely on the Common Internet File System (CIFS) protocol. CIFS was designed to run over a LAN, but over a WAN, CIFS performs very badly resulting in highly disgruntled users.

Subsequent newsletters will go into more detail about the problems of running CIFS over the WAN and how wide-area file services (WAFS) attempts to solve these problems. We'll also discuss some evolutionary technology that may reduce the need for WAFS.

In November, Jim will be moderating Network IT Executive Forum, a network management seminar tour in Europe that will discuss WAFS, as well as other key topics such as security, Web services and service-level management. The seminar, which is organized by IDG Global Solutions, will take place on Nov. 8 in Amsterdam, Nov. 10 in Munich, Nov. 15 in London and Nov. 17 in Paris. If possible, plan to attend the seminar and learn more about these important topics. (IDG is the parent company of Network World.)

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