BranchCache – Course 101: Modes of Operation

BranchCache is a WAN optimization technology that is included in some editions of Windows starting from Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

How does it work? And what are the modes of operation for such technology? That is what we will be discussing in this post.

First of all, from client perspective, some edition of Windows has already the BranchCache client. If you go to your services mmc on your Windows, you will see a service called (BranchCache).

BranchCache technology is an enhancement of the (Peer Distribution) technology that existed in Windows Vista. In some TechNet pages, you will see this technology referred by (Peer Distribution) instead of BranchCache.

It is important to know that BranchCache will not speed up your YouTube browsing for example or any Internet browsing experience, instead it will speed up your access to internal portals like SharePoint and corporate portals and also it can speed up your access to remote File Shares on your main site. WSUS, SCCM and SharePoint are famous candidates for this technology.

BranchCache thus, will work only with two main protocols, HTTP including the HTTPS traffic, and SMB (or CIFS) which is the protocol used to access file shares.

So far, we know that you don’t need to install anything on your Windows machines if you picked the right edition, and that BranchCache will only work for Internal HTTP (HTTPS) sites and file shares. Now, let us talk about what is required from the server perspective. Your servers that you want your clients to cache content from are called (Content Servers). Those content servers should be running BranchCache supported Windows server

BranchCache_sdss

BranchCache Technology operates in two modes:

  • Distributed Cache Mode
  • Hosted Cache Mode

In BranchCache Distributed Cache mode, each machine in the branch will cache the content in its local disk and when another machine in the same site needs to access the same file, it will pull it from neighbor machines.

In BranchCache Hosted Cache mode, you need to install a Windows Server (BranchCache supported Server editions only) in the branch (called Hosted Cache Server). Whenever a client downloads a file from a BranchCache capable server, it will copy the file to that Hosted Cache server. When another machine wants to download the same file, it will contact the Hosted Cache server and get it from there.

Each mode has its advantages and disadvantages that we will discuss in another separate posts  later in this crush course.

If you are interested to know more about this nice technology, come here again and filter posts with (BranchCache) tag.

Note:This applies to Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2. Separate post will mention what is new in Windows 8/2012

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