InfoWorld review: Riverbed Steelhead rules the WAN

Riverbed's RiOS 6 continues the tradition of WAN performance gains while improving flexibility, ease, and application support

After six years and dozens of product reviews, I still can't find anything really sexy about WAN acceleration and optimization. What is sexy -- at least to upper management -- is making better use of the enterprise wide area network, especially in these economically trying times. Trying to convince the bean counters to spend money on infrastructure might seem like a lost cause, but when the facts are laid out and the return on investment is calculated with due diligence, WAN acceleration could be a no-brainer. If a high-performance WAN allows you to extend centralized resources, rather than duplicating them at the branch office, management will certainly like the math.

Riverbed recently updated its line of WAN optimization and acceleration appliances with the release of RiOS 6 and a couple of new hardware platforms. RiOS 6 builds on many of the advances made in RiOS 5, adds some new features, and enhances others. RiOS 6 continues Riverbed's forward-thinking approach to the WAN optimization space by building in more application- and protocol-specific optimizations, a compression and deduplication engine that adjusts on the fly, and even greater network transparency and traffic flow reporting. Throw in better overall performance than previous versions and the new release is a compelling solution for virtually any distributed enterprise.

[ IPv4 depletion is happening faster than expected, raising the specter of a black market that could jump the price of an Internet presence. Read about it on InfoWorld: "Beware the black market rising for IP addresses." ]

My testing platform this time around consisted of a pair of Riverbed Steelhead 2050H 1U rack appliances rated at 6,000 optimized TCP connections and 45Mbps of optimized WAN throughput ($41,780 per appliance including Riverbed Services Platform). Aimed at the midsize office, the Steelhead 2050H includes 400GB of deduplication disk space, while another 75GB of disk is allocated to the Riverbed Services Platform (RSP) -- Riverbed's VMware implementation built into RiOS 6.

As in previous reviews, I paired my Shunra Storm WAN simulator with trusty Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP clients to generate a variety of traffic through the system. My test was made up of a variety of WAN speeds and conditions, as well as a mix of various common traffic types. In addition to the two link speeds from previous tests -- 128Kbps with 40ms round-trip latency and a long-haul T1 with 500ms round-trip latency and 1 bit error in every 106 bits -- I added a T3 link with 100ms of round-trip latency to give some perspective on fast cross-country links.

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Test Center Scorecard
40%25%15%10%10%
Riverbed Steelhead with RiOS 6999910

9.1

Excellent

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