Expand Networks upgrade highlights virtual appeal, affordability

* Upgraded version of Expand's Virtual Accelerator features full support for VMware's Infrastructure 3 Services

Expand Networks is upgrading its Virtual Accelerator product to better complement IT consolidation and virtualization initiatives and appeal to buyers looking for affordable WAN optimization options for their branch offices.

Expand is touting in particular the product’s starting price: $995 for an entry-level branch office device.

A central feature of Expand’s Virtual Accelerator (formerly called VWAN) is that it can be deployed as a virtual machine image in a virtual environment, leveraging platforms such as VMware Server and VMware ESXi.

“We uncoupled our technology from the physical appliance,” says Michael Cucchi, senior director of product marketing at Expand. “And by uncoupling the dependency on the hardware, it makes it extremely cost effective because you’re no longer purchasing a hardware appliance along with the technology.”

Companies can run multiple instances of Virtual Accelerator on one or multiple physical servers, depending on scalability requirements, and take advantage of existing hardware, shared storage, and centralized management capabilities, backup policies and configuration tools.

Another benefit of not being tied to a proprietary appliance is that Virtual Accelerator can be deployed under traditionally challenging and extreme conditions, such as on aircraft, mobile environments, and remote and unattended locations, Expand says.

With the new release of Virtual Accelerator, Expand focused on tightening the integration with VMware, Cucchi says. The upgraded version features full support for VMware’s Infrastructure 3 Services, which means users can take advantage of VMware’s tools for deploying and managing virtual machines. For example, it supports VMware VMotion, which lets IT migrate Virtual Accelerator to another virtual machine in the event of hardware maintenance, with zero downtime.

“You can VMotion your Expand Accelerator now,” Cucchi says. “You can move the Accelerator around using the VMware tools. You can move it to a different physical server, and it just migrates its system state over so you can bring down a server without bringing down the WAN optimization device.”

Virtual Accelerator also supports VMware High Availability (HA), whereby the WAN optimization product can be restarted on a different physical server, without intervention from IT, if a server fails.

“When one server fails, VMware will monitor that, see that it has failed, and will immediately spin up another Virtual Accelerator in another location on another physical server,” Cucchi says. “And this is all for free, because you don’t need to buy another [Virtual Accelerator] license to do this. We’re just restarting the same Accelerator in another location.”

For management purposes, Virtual Accelerator supports VMware’s Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), which lets IT allocate and balance computing capacity across the virtualized infrastructure.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.