Gartner has invented a new device category called WOCs for WAN Optimisation Controllers. Network appliance is said to be the leading supplier of equipment in this category. The WOC category is a sub-section of the application accelerator market. Gartner says NetApp has 24 percent of 2004 WOC revenues.

Gartner tells us that WAN Optimization Controllers solve performance problems caused by bandwidth constraints and latency or protocol limitations. So WOCs are specifically designed for network deployment and are used mainly in data centres and remote locations to improve application performance across WANs.

How does a WOC differ from a WAFS? I can't see that they differ in any practical way at all. Both Wide Area File Systems and WAN Optimisation Controllers employ some form of acceleration technique to give remote users faster access to files held at a data centre instead of locally. A prime element always involves local caching. This is a feature with Tacit, with Expand Networks, with Riverbed and with Cisco's File Engine. In fact Cisco is partnering with NetApp in the WAFS market.

Another piece of this pie is specific application acceleration techniques in which 'chatty' application protocols are shortened or spoofed by application plug-ins. There doesn't seem to be a good practical all-round term covering network accelerators, wide area file systems and application accelerators. WOC doesn't really cut it. WAFS ignores the application acceleration part. Network acceleration (NA) ignores both the storage and application parts.

NAWAFS? WOCNAWAFS? We need a new term. Perhaps Gartner, the lone research ranger, will come to the rescue.