Remote access at warp speed

Riverbed's Steelhead Mobile WAN acceleration software client slashes Web, mail, file copy, and file transfer times for Windows and Mac users

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Speedy Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop and secure Windows SMB
Also new in Steelhead Mobile 3.1 is native support for Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop traffic. For both Citrix terminal services and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) farms, Mobile now helps improve client response time over the WAN and reduce overall bandwidth needs. Mobile also automatically provides QoS for all Citrix traffic, resulting in more consistent and reduced response times. Configuration is limited to choosing the port for your XenApp traffic; there isn't anything else to worry about.

As noted earlier, Steelhead Mobile 3.1 now runs on Mac OS X, and it works like a champ. Along with speeding up WAN connections for the Mac itself, Mobile extends its optimization and acceleration benefits to hosted guest operating systems running on virtualization layers such as VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop. This means that any virtual machine hosted by the Mac will get the Steelhead treatment and take part in better overall WAN performance. The same goes for virtualization on Windows, for that matter. As long as Steelhead Mobile fits into the computer's network stack -- Mac or Windows -- it can optimize any traffic that passes through it.

The Steelhead Mobile Controller displays the traffic passing between Steelhead Mobile clients and the data center. Here, it is easy to see that most CIFS traffic was redundant, providing a 99 percent reduction of data on the WAN.
The Steelhead Mobile Controller displays the traffic passing between Steelhead Mobile clients and the data center. Here, it is easy to see that most CIFS traffic was redundant, providing a 99 percent reduction of data on the WAN.

By default, Windows Server 2008 domain controllers have SMB signing enabled to encrypt Server Message Block (Windows network protocol) packets as they move between client and server. By encrypting the packets, SMB signing provides a means of authenticating the end-to-end traffic, preventing man-in-the-middle attacks. With the version 3.1 release, Steelhead Mobile can handle these packets by participating in the Active Directory domain. Now Mobile is able to optimize any CIFS traffic it sees, not just unencrypted traffic. Finally, Mobile can now optimize encrypted MAPI traffic between clients and Microsoft Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010 servers, too.

Riverbed Steelhead Mobile 3.1 plugs important gaps left open from previous releases. Performance keeps pace with its hardware-based cousin and the feature set is maturing nicely, with better SSL support, Citrix optimizations, and support for Windows SMB signing and encrypted MAPI. The Mac OS X client is the icing on the cake -- and best of all, it just works.

Riverbed Steelhead Mobile 3.1

CostPlatformsProsCons
Steelhead Mobile Controller VE starts at $5,995 (including 10 concurrent Steelhead Mobile licenses) and requires Riverbed Services Platform license at $2,785 for an existing Steelhead appliance. Additional client licenses are available in packs of 10 at $50 per user.Steelhead Mobile 3.1 runs on Windows XP (32-bit) through Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit) and Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 (Leopard and Snow Leopard)
  • Huge networking performance gains over Internet or WAN
  • Reduces network latency and data traffic over the link
  • Client for Windows 7 64-bit and Mac OS X
  • HTTPS and Citrix XenApp acceleration
  • Optimizes Passive FTP only, not Active FTP
  • FTP performance lags other protocols

This article, "Remote access at warp speed," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in networking at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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