Microsoft

New Windows BranchCache: Features and considerations

Bandwidth management is one of the most venerable of IT challenges. A new feature may help this for some environments that move to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. In this blog, IT guru Rick Vanover outlines BranchCache.

Like many other administrators, I am happy about the forthcoming release of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. While I'm still a little confused why there is an awkwardly long gap between Windows 7 being released to manufacturing and general availability, I'm looking at changes to the products and one that may be beneficial is the BranchCache feature.

BranchCache works simply as a cache for file resources that are on remote servers to Windows 7 clients. These resources are cached for read operations of data that is provided on a remote Windows Server 2008 file server. This is an important consideration for any caching service. Version inconsistency or write contention would be the first issue that would kill the effectiveness of this type of feature.

One ease of entry point is that BranchCache can function in two modes: Distributed Cache and Hosted Cache. BranchCache is optimized for a smaller remote site with fewer than 50 client systems. This configuration will have each Windows 7 PC provide some of the cached content in a meshed peer-to-peer mode. This can be a little inconsistent because if the Windows 7 PCs are laptops and are removed from the remote network, they will be unable to provide their cache.

The peer-to-peer exchange of the caching clients is managed by the content server, which is the Windows Server 2008 R2 system that contains the source data. From a policy standpoint this would not be a user-administered peer-to-peer exchange. Likewise, authentication requests are still made to the content server even if directed to the caching client.

The other mode is Hosted Cache mode, which utilizes a local Windows Server 2008 R2 server to be the local cache resource. This mode can be a little more predictable in that there would not be caching clients arriving and departing to the remote network. Like the Distributed Cache configuration, Hosted Cache has all authentication for resources performed on the content server, with delivery from the local cache server.

As it applies to the day-to-day of many administrators, BranchCache may be a boon. Bandwidth management is an important practice point that is in a rat race with increasingly large system resources becoming more distributed between sites in many organizations. Does BranchCache have you interested? Share your comments below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

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