Unlike the Riverbed Steelhead and the Cisco Wide Area Application Engine, Juniper's WXC 1800 can optimize SMB-signed traffic. SMB signing, which is on by default on Windows 2003 and 2008 domain controllers, places a digital signature into each SMB packet to secure network communications between Windows clients and servers. To accelerate this traffic, Juniper requires a valid domain user account on each appliance in order to negotiate a key to decrypt each packet. Once decrypted, each traffic flow is tested against established policy and any optimization techniques are applied. Now network admins no longer have to disable SMB signing in order to optimize Windows traffic.
Admins want to know just how much of their bandwidth they are getting back. The reporting support in WXC is solid with useful predefined reports, but for those who like to look at trends over more than a week's time, plan on exporting the collected statistics to another platform (the Traffic report is the only one that includes "all" as a time period). Creating a report, such as FTP compression over the past week, was straightforward and easy to read.
To really exploit the information collected by the WXC's, admins will want to deploy Juniper's CMS (Central Management Server). CMS allows for comprehensive trend analysis to help predict future bandwidth needs as well as more detailed reporting on appliances scattered across the WAN. It also provides a platform for IT to push out software upgrades and configuration changes across the WAN.
Even though it was a long time in coming, I am happy to have had a chance to evaluate the WXC 1800 from Juniper. Although the appliances didn't score fastest in my tests, they did provide a good overall acceleration of my test traffic and included features lacking in other devices. I like the SSL support and also the ability to optimize SMB-signed traffic; this will become more important as Microsoft evolves its server line. Reporting is good if not overly flashy, with the only shortcoming in long-term trend analysis.