Review: Software push the WAN performance envelope

Review: Software push the WAN performance envelope

Version 1.0 of the software client brings huge performance gains to CIFS file transfers, though HTTPS and NFS are not supported; Version 4.1 of the site-to-site solution shows overall performance improvement over Version 3.0, while adding key features, including HTTPS support

The second new optimization improves the performance of Oracle E-Business applications over the WAN. The Oracle Java Initiator (JInitiator) is a browser plug-in that allows users to access Oracle Forms and E-Business content. Riverbed's blade decrypts, optimizes, and re-encrypts JInitiator traffic, and can optionally encrypt it with IPSec for secure transport over the WAN.

Not to be left out, Steelhead's hardware received some enhancements also. To make sure no data is vulnerable, optional encryption of the data store using AES-128, AES-192, or AES-256 is available. Fault tolerance gets a boost with better Active-Active failover support. The data stores are kept synchronized at all times for faster fail-over regardless of deployment -- serial or parallel.

Reporting has always been a strong point with the Steelhead, and while there are no major changes in release 4.1, there have been some subtle improvements in granularity. I've always liked the simplicity of the reporting engine, which makes it easy to read and filter the current information. During my test I constantly referred to the Current Connections page to make sure traffic was being optimized as I expected. I also like that I can export NetFlow information on a per-interface basis for further analysis.

From weak link to SuperWAN

There is no argument whether WAN optimization is necessary -- it is. The question becomes which solution to choose based on the types of traffic and WAN conditions in place. Riverbed has consistently led the way with a broad range of application support and excellent performance. The latest offerings, both hardware and software, continue to push the performance and functionality envelope.

Software-based WAN acceleration is finally coming of age, and Riverbed's Steelhead Mobile client is one of the best efforts to date. Performance is outstanding, and the centralized management capability makes IT's life a lot easier. The additional cost of the Steelhead Mobile Controller may be a road block to some deployments, but for many, the benefits will make it well worth the investment.

The Steelhead family of appliances continues to evolve, and Riverbed continues to improve on an already capable product. New application support for HTTPS and Oracle JInitiator complement a well-rounded set of optimizations. Overall performance is still among the best available, and reporting leaves nothing out. Riverbed has once again bolstered the utility belt for WAN-weary IT superheroes.

The Bottom Line: Riverbed Steelhead 1520 with RiOS 4.1

Riverbed Technology,
Overall score: Excellent, 9/10
Performance: 9/10
Protocol support: 9/10
Reporting: 9/10
Setup: 9/10
Value: 9/10

Cost: US$15,995 as tested for each Steelhead 1520 1U appliance with 4Mbps WAN capacity, 1,000 optimized connections, and 25GB of raw storage.

Platforms: Any TCP/IP network

Bottom Line: The Steelhead family of WAN acceleration appliances continues to get better with each new release. Version 4.1 shines with better first-pass performance, improved fail-over, and more efficient handling of packet loss. Other highlights include the addition of support for HTTPS and Oracle JInitiator traffic, improved handling of packet loss and congestions, and encryption for the data store. Overall, the Steelhead WAN accelerator is an excellent choice for just about any WAN situation.

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