The Common Internet File System (CIFS) protocol (also referred to as “server message block”) is an application-layer network protocol that is commonly used for file-, port-, and printer-sharing. It also is involved in facilitating some communications between network nodes. It uses a client-server approach with the client making requests and the server responding. Though CIFS serves a purpose, it is also known for its “chatty” nature and sub-par WAN performance.
Before CIFS optimization, companies handled only a small amount of request at a time and most of the files were accessed through a local area network (LAN). The latency when retrieving a file from the LAN were insignificant, even though it required numerous round-trips to accomplish the request. Now that many companies have gone global, it is more imperative for faster file request. Still today, companies agree that latency is one of the largest impediment to user productivity. Latency such as processor speed, travel distance, number of round trips to complete a request and bandwidth queue. This is especially challenging for enterprise with several offices around the world.
Latency is also a major issue with CIFS – and numerous processes, some of which you can and some of which you cannot control, introduce latency. For example, you can control the processor speed of your own client and server systems, but you can’t necessarily control the distances or number of round-trips involved in a request. CIFS was initially designed for small LANs, not global WANs. As such, latency issues associated with local requests were minimally disruptive and barely noticed. However, those issues are potentially debilitating on a WAN.
CIFS optimization is a process used to improve response time and WAN performance (Source:CIFS Optimization by Aryaka). With CIFS optimization, a proxy between the client and server is used to anticipate and responding to requests before they are made. Not only is CIFS optimization used to resolve latency issues inherent in the protocol, it is used to reduce the number of round-trips made for each request. By addressing the shortcomings of CIFS, optimizing other protocols such as TCP, and using compression and de-duplication processes, WANs can be optimized to deliver superior performance and faster response times.
Companies using WANs benefit from CIFS optimization in several key ways including: faster file-sharing and user response, increased productivity, enhanced performance, and lower bandwidth requirements and cost. These benefits can be substantial with some WAN as a Service providers touting impress transfer rates (up to 100 times faster) and significant data reductions (up to 90 percent) for file-sharing.