WAN appliance underdog Exinda pushes open standard

WAN appliance vendor Exinda plans to push a standard for WAN optimization, application acceleration and other functions.

Looking for an edge in the hotly contested market for wide-area network performance tools, Exinda Networks wants to help everyone get along.

The Melbourne-based company is set to announce on Monday a proposed standard it calls Unified Performance Management (UPM). The standard calls for integrating tools for WAN (wide-area network) optimization, application acceleration, application visibility and application response-time monitoring in one device, but it also would allow single-purpose products from different vendors to interoperate, said Con Nikolouzakis, Exinda's chief executive officer.

Exinda, founded in 2002, is up against a consolidating market. Seeing enterprises struggle with poor application performance over networks, startups several years ago began rolling out appliances to speed things up. Bigger players such as Cisco Systems are now moving in, aiming to make such tools just one more set of features on a router. Exinda says it has a technology edge over bigger players. Its technology is 18 to 24 months ahead of Cisco's, and the company will keep investing to keep in front, he said.

WAN optimization and application acceleration are intended to make better use of limited bandwidth and eliminate bottlenecks that slow down data exchange across a WAN. Exinda combines these with tools that show how applications are operating and how long it takes users to finish tasks. The combination allows Exinda's appliance to apply the right mechanisms when they're needed, Nikolouzakis said. It also gives IT administrators evidence, beyond anecdotal reports, that their solutions are working.

Demand for better application response is growing fast as more employees work in branch offices and on the road, said IDC analyst Cindy Borovick. The market is consolidating, but there is still room for smaller vendors like Exinda, she said.

UPM is an open standard, now in its first version, that will continue to evolve, Nokolouzakis said. Exinda aims to bring it in to a standards body such as the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) or IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). Nokolouzakis drew an analogy to open standards for security, such as IPSec (Internet Protocol Security). When vendors first started using IPSec, their implementations didn't work together, and it took an open standard to solve the problem. Likewise, security functions such as firewall, VPN (virtual private network) and virus protection are now being combined in unified systems, he said.

Exinda could push adoption of UPM by winning over the engineers on technical committees and by getting a large service provider to adopt its technology, Borovick said. A carrier with appliances from many vendors would be have a reason to push for interoperability.

Exinda makes a range of appliances spanning everything from branch offices (starting at about US$1,000) to enterprise headquarters, Nokolouzakis said. In the future, it plans to offer a software client for mobile workers.

Also Monday, Exinda will add WAFS (wide area file services) capability to its Exinda 4800 and 6800 appliances. The software is designed to speed up file transfers by eliminating the inefficiencies of the CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocol. The CIFS acceleration feature will be available in January as a standard feature on the devices and as a free download from Exinda.

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