Is your branch office network infrastructure slowing down employee productivity or nearing its end of life? If the answer is yes to either, you’ll want to consider Cisco Systems’  new line of wide area network optimization appliances .
Cisco’s Wide Area Virtualization Engine (WAVE) 294 appliance running Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) software offers an entry-level solution for branch offices. The Cisco WAVE 294 accelerates access to centralized applications, data and video, and delivers LAN-like performance over the WAN to small and medium-sized branch offices.
There are two versions of the software: WAAS and WAAS Express. WAAS Express provides a subset of WAN optimization features embedded in Cisco IOS. Dedicated devices such as the WAVE 294 run the full version of WAAS.
WAN optimization seeks to increase productivity and improve the application experience for remote users. Users will benefit from a marked increase in overall business application performance in situations where limited bandwidth and network latency affects application performance. WAN optimization will speed the process of downloading e-mail, streaming video and delivering presentations, and thus enhance the user experience.
The WAVE 294 can host applications locally to deliver LAN-like access, or pull down applications from the cloud or a remote data center. The solution provides WAN optimization at what Cisco refers to as Layer 4 and Layer 7. The manufacturer’s Layer 4 starts at the TCP level and includes caching and compression techniques for TCP traffic. Layer 7 optimizers eliminate inefficiencies in application delivery, including redundancy in message communications needed to open files.
Cisco has partnered with several enterprise software manufacturers such as CA, Citrix, Microsoft, SAP and others to provide APIs to support those applications, allowing users to continue to rely on the software they’re familiar with rather than learn new applications.
Users may not be aware of all the reasons why their apps are running faster — all they know is they’re able to get work done more quickly, their systems run more efficiently, and they can go home on time.
Cisco Systems demonstrated its WAAS software and the WAVE 294 for this review. There’s a lot for IT to love. The appliance’s compact 1-rack-unit form factor takes up very little real estate in the rack and is easy to install, making it ideal for a small branch office.
Number of connections supported by the Cisco WAVE 294 appliance, which is upgradable to 400 connections
SOURCE: Cisco Systems
Other physical attributes include a 250-gigabyte hard-disk drive for data storage, two 10/100/1000BASE-T onboard Gigabit Ethernet ports and a 4-port inline I/O module, with the option to upgrade to an 8-port inline IOM. It will host up to two virtual blades.
IT managers will appreciate the agility that the central manager dashboard offers, allowing them to manage all WAN optimization devices from a single panel whether they’re running WAAS or WAAS Express. Devices may be separated into groups with customized permissions and configurations for application delivery, decreasing time and resources for deployment. The WAVE’s reporting and analysis tools are easy to configure as well.
The Cisco WAVE 294 does not provide RAID support, although models designed for larger offices do.
Overall, the Cisco WAVE 294 appliance won’t break the budget. It will centralize IT resources, reduce the cost of WAN bandwidth and interoperate with existing equipment to deliver a cost-effective, cloud-ready, WAN optimization solution.