Microsoft attempts to address CIFS' limitations in R2

* Windows Server 2003 R2 to address problems with running CIFS apps over WANs

Previous newsletters described the problems that result from taking applications that are based on LAN protocols such as Common Internet File System or Network File System, and running those over a company's WAN. Those newsletters also described a possible solution to the problem: wide-area file systems. WAFS were described as being a viable short-term solution but most companies do not want their branch offices littered with numerous specialized appliances.

Whereas a WAFS solution attempts to use sophisticated technology to overcome the issues of running a LAN protocol over the WAN, Microsoft is suggesting an alternative approach. The company recently issued a beta of Windows Server 2003 R2. Microsoft has stated that R2 represents the first in a wave of upcoming branch office technologies from Microsoft and industry partners.   

One of the goals of R2 is to eliminate some of the aspects of CIFS that causes CIFS-based applications to run badly over a WAN. To achieve this goal, R2 includes Remote Differential Compression (RDC), a compression technology that replicates only the changes that are needed in order to ensure global file consistency.

R2 also contains a completely rewritten replication engine for the distributed file system (DFS). Microsoft claims that the new DFS is notably more robust and scalable and also states that the new DFS uses RDC to increase the efficiency of the WAN. In addition, if a WAN connection were to fail, data can be stored and forwarded when the WAN becomes available.

We would like to hear from you. Do you look at WAFS as a short-term solution or as a long-term solution? Do you trust that Microsoft will be successful at making some or all of the CIFS issues go away?

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