Afore Solutions is introducing an Ethernet acceleration box geared towards making cloud computing less expensive.

The devices, called Accelerated Secure Ethernet (ASE) 3300, accelerate and secure Ethernet traffic between corporate data centres so businesses can trust connections to backup storage. Or they could create tunnels to cloud-based services that smaller businesses rely on to outsource IT functions, said the company. In addition, the devices save money by consolidating multiple local inputs into a single WAN connection with compression up to 10 to 1, reducing the required WAN bandwidth and WAN cost.

ASE 3300 corrects errors by reconstituting lost packets so higher-layer protocols don't have to retransmit them. This makes connections run more efficiently and so less expensively, the company says. Overall, the devices could improve application performance 50 percent to 60 percent, said Jonathan Reeves, chairman and chief strategy officer for Afore.

This represents a new category of network device, said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects. It is critical to cloud computing that network latency be minimised, and this type of technology addresses that problem, he said. "You've got to worry about latency, lost packets in the infrastructure itself," Dzubeck added.

Addressing these issues at the Ethernet layer takes care of them in higher layers, he says. "You end up optimising each layer. This technology will be integral to service delivery networks," he said.

Afore devices are deployed at both ends of network links, shuttling traffic through tunnels that are compressed and encrypted. ASE3300 differs from WAN-acceleration devices made by the likes of Expand, F5, Riverbed, Silverback and others whose gear optimises at Layer 3, said Dzubeck.

By incorporating forward error correction - Afore calls it EtherCorrrect - the devices reconstitute lost packets based on in-band error-correction packets. These eliminate the need for retransmission of higher-layer protocols such as TCP and UDP to replace lost packets.

The ASE 3300s adjust how many error-correcting packets they send based on network congestion, sending more when packet loss is higher, and fewer when it is lower.

The devices perform compression that can reduce the size of traffic 10 to 1, and encrypts the traffic using AES 256 encryption, all at wire speed. The traffic is encapsulated in what Afore calls HyperTunnels that run on metro Ethernet, IP over MPLS or dense wave division multiplexing connections.

By improving throughput and eliminating packet loss, the acceleration boxes support spreading storage area networks over great distances, up to thousands of kilometers, the company said. The technology is suited to backing up data centers using Fibre Channel and Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

ASE 3300 is a chassis with dual power supplies that holds three hardware modules, each module having four software-configurable network ports for Fibre Channel, Fiber Channel over Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet. The modules have up to two Gigabit Ethernet WAN ports.