Last week, Packeteer announced that it was buying Tacit Networks, a suppliers of WAFS devices, and this week it is the turn of Expand Networks to pick up DiskSites, which develops WAFS software.

The surprise is not that the acquisitions took place, but that they took so long to happen - and that Tacit and DiskSites managed to hang on to independent existences as long as they did. After all, Packeteer first signed up to sell Tacit boxes in September last year.

It's even more true in the case of DiskSites, whose software Expand has been selling under an OEM agreement for several months. The two companies share a chairman, and their R&D departments were located near each other in Israel. Once the news broke last month that Expand was on the acquisition trail, its target was obvious.

Most observers have focused on the need for Packeteer and Expand to fill out the range of technology they offer, in particular to catch up with companies such as Riverbed Technology which already had wide-area file acceleration capabilities. There's a stack of others vying for position here as well, such as Certeon, Cisco, Citrix, Juniper, Orbital Data, Silver Peak and Streamcore.

The reason for everyone needing for a set of complementary WAN acceleration and optimisation technologies is server and data centre consolidation. Without a single appliance capable of TCP and protocol acceleration, bandwidth management, file and print services, security and more, organisations must deploy and manage multiple point solutions.

This is why Packeteer bought Mentat, for example - to gain access to its protocol acceleration expertise and integrate it with its own trail-blazing bandwidth management capabilities.

But while it is true that a WAN optimiser must now deploy a broad spread of technologies, the reverse is also true - that the day of the standalone WAFS device (or TCP accelerator, or bandwidth manager) is pretty much over.

Oh, Packeteer will still offer Tacit's iShared box and its Mentat-based SkyX accelerators, and Chris Williams, Expand's chief marketing officer, talks of the opportunity to sell WAFS-only versions of Expand's modular Compass platform. Customers have made investments in both technologies, after all.

However, the medium-term future is integrated "application performance" appliances, and in the longer term we will see many of these features embedded in the network. Cisco has already taken steps here, launching a WAN acceleration blade for its Catalyst 6500, and it is an obvious route forward for Juniper too, as its CEO Scott Kriens has acknowledged.

Still, this week's winner definitely looks to be Expand. It has already got the DiskSites software working within Compass - and can now cut its prices, with no OEM software supplier to pay off anymore - whereas Packeteer faces the challenge of taking Tacit's software and porting it to its PacketShaper appliance. And given that it took over a year to get the SkyX software ported, who knows how long it could take this time.