Many organizations have regional offices around the world. In order to serve their employees, customers and partners a great user experience, organizations explore solutions that can help reduce the effects of network latency. Many organizations, however, tend to look for replication solutions when what they might really need to look for are WAN acceleration solutions.
When network latency is the issue, it's important to consider WAN acceleration solutions. Replication, having the data and the application stored in N different places, can address this issue... but can introduce other challenges if you are not careful. For starters, you need redundant hardware -and- need to address multi-master replication for solutions that require a read/write experience in all the locations. You also need N management and operations environments. In a nutshell, it's not always the right solution to address network latency.
On the other hand, WAN acceleration solutions allow you to have one centrally managed environment and "accelerate", essentially cache, common requests, data and applications at the branch offices. The impact of WAN acceleration depends on the size of the cache and depends on how content/application is cached. Application specific solutions are typically more effective, but in some cases, general solutions (like HTTP traffic) can work as well. Compression also helps reduce network traffic.
So where does SharePoint technology fit in this space?
1. One Authoring, several read-only environments.
Practical scenario: Web publishing solution (a .com site) where you have authoring (R/W) and different Read-only production environments. For this case, we provide out of the box tools for content deployment where you can publish content from one environment to multiple web server farms. Keep in mind that the out-of-the-box solution provides the ability to do 1-to-many one way publishing... it's not 2-way.
2. WAN acceleration: read/write scenarios with offices across the world.
Practical scenario: A highly collaborative environment where an organization has offices WW. There are several Microsoft SharePoint partners that offer a SharePoint-specific WAN acceleration solution. Some that come to mind are Certeon and Tacit. If you're already invested in a WAN acceleration solution, you should explore how effective it is with your SharePoint environment. The compression algorithms along with the HTTP traffic acceleration should yield good results.
3. Replication: Different environments that need to host similar content
Practical scenario: 1) Different WW offices want to maintain their own environment but want to sync up w/ a central environment. 2) Another example is disaster-recovery where you want to replicate the content.
There are several SharePoint partners for both the scenarios 1 & 2. These scenarios are different and SharePoint Technology does come with guidance and tools for #2. Partners that come to mind are iOra for scenario 1 and CommVault and Veritas. A third example also includes client/server replication where you want to enable users to be able to take content offline. Outlook 2007 and Groove provide offline replication technology as well as partners like Digi-link.