Tacit Networks is adding application support to its WAN caching devices, enabling remote users to access centralised services as if they were local.

Organisations with multiple offices will no longer need to choose between IT consolidation with its attendant WAN delays, and distributed IT with all the management headaches that entails, according to president Chuck Foley.

Tacit is best known for its Ishare WAFS (wide area file system) 'virtual LAN' appliance that uses caching to provides fast access to networked storage, even over a WAN. Now it wants to turn Ishared into the application hub for a branch or remote office.

"We will try and put more and more services onto the appliance," said Foley. "Our vision is a branch office infrastructure that gets rid of local servers and replaces them with a single appliance that provides a window into the central datacentre."

He said that Tacit has already added local printing and DNS/DHCP services to Ishare, and is now rolling out Web access, with support for Exchange email services in beta.

"90 percent of an Exchange store is attachments - that simply kills your WAN," he declared. He said that local caching can provide much better access, especially if the same attachment is sent to multiple users.

The next addition will be software management, he said. This will support Microsoft SMS, allowing software patches and upgrades to be cached locally.

"There is some overlap, but we're not trying to compete with content distribution networks - we want to be intelligent distribution on an infrastructure level," Foley added. He said his main competitor is Cisco, which last year paid $112 million for WAFS developer Actona, but that Tacit also overlaps with WAN acceleration specialists such as Riverbed, Peribit, Expand and Swan Labs.

He argued though that the ability to cache locally is the key to success: "The question is how many services can we put on one appliance? People need a stack of services - printing, Web access, network services, software upgrades and management, email - but the foundation for that stack is file services."