Tacit Networks is going to add TCP acceleration to its wide area file system (WAFS) product. It is also set to ship Exchange acceleration in July and claims that it will improve management facilities and make its product better able to work around link failures.

WAFS enables branch offices to have access over the WAN to files in a central datacentre. A combination of caching devices at either end of the WAN link, and compression, makes file access time approach local LAN file server speeds. WAFS already supports CIFS and NFS acceleration. Tacit will add TCP protocol acceleration so that web access (HTTP) and file transfer (FTP) will be speeded up.

The WAFS approach is receiving broad support in the industry. Joe Skorupa, Gartner's research director, said: "Going forward, the vast majority of distributed enterprises must and will deploy networking technology that enables seamless branch office access of centralized and consolidated storage and services.”

Cisco has acquired Fineground and Actona to provide it with WAFS capabilities. Juniper has bought Peribit for similar technology. Brocade recently took a ten percent interest in Tacit.

However, it is not simply a case of accelerating file access. The WAFS devices and network links must be managed and link failures coped with.

Tacit's current product can survive short WAN disruptions without data loss or corruption. Longer link breaks can't be managed so well and the WAFS system eventually has to give up. Tacit is going to extend the design of its product so that longer breaks don't break the product. Remote office users can carry on working when the WAN link is down, and even create new files.

When the link comes back up the caching devices at either end of the link will re-synchronise and file integrity will be maintained. This happens inside what is in effect a distributed file system.

Tacit will also introduce a management console that can cope with large numbers of remote office WAFS links, numbers in the hundreds and thousands. The console will link into Microsoft's Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) for reporting, and use Active Directory for WAFS device auto-discovery and configuration. The new software will be compatible with Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) and IBM's Tivoli product.

All these new product features will be introduced in the next twelve months as upgrades to installed product.