Virtualised Windows applications and storage services are now possible at branch offices. Applications and data are consolidated into a data centre and accessed over an IP wide area network. Wide area file services (WAFS) and centralised application repositories are the two pillars on which this is based.

Tacit Networks has certified the Softricity Desktop. This turns Windows applications into centrally-managed virtualised services delivered to remote office desktops and servers on demand, using Tacit Networks' Ishared application acceleration technology.

Softricity's technology eliminates local Windows application installations and streams just the code necessary to run the applications to the client system. There it executes in a protected "sandbox" cache. The branch office PCs become, in effect, thin clients.

Using a Brocade Tapestry WAFS appliance the branch office access storage held centrally and cached locally. Brocade' which owns 10 percent of Tacit, uses Tacit Networks technology for this and it has been developed to work specifically with Windows Storage Server by Tacit, Brocade and Microsoft. Release 2 of Windows Storage Server will contain ISA Server which accelerates web browsing as well. It will also contain printer management for the WAN.

The aim, according to Justin Alderson, a server sales manager for Microsoft in Europe, is: "to have server appliances that are dropped in and are disposable and replaceable - a server appliance managed as a cache." In other words, a thin server.

Competing WAFS suppliers such as Riverbed, Expand Networks and Cisco don't use Windows-based branch office appliances. That is why Microsoft is working with Tacit and Brocade.