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

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Citrix, Oracle, and Mac CIFS
There are a couple of new application- and protocol-specific improvements in RiOS 6. Mac users will now enjoy better overall performance with the addition of optimizations for Mac SMB/CIFS file sharing. Even though Windows and Mac both support the CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocol, the Mac implementation of CIFS was just different enough that previous optimizations in RiOS were less than stellar for Mac users. Now for Mac OS X 10.5, RiOS 6 speaks Mac and Windows CIFS.

RiOS 6 also comes with specific optimizations for Citrix ICA (Independent Computing Architecture). It can automatically decrypt and optimize Citrix traffic, as well as prioritize and classify different types of traffic using the built-in QoS engine. For example, IT can define interactive traffic with a higher priority than print jobs. Riverbed reports anywhere between a 30 and 50 percent improvement in response times, but I haven't yet tested this feature in my lab (stay tuned).

There are also application-specific improvements around Oracle 12i. RiOS can optimize Oracle E-Business Suite 12i, as well as Oracle Forms over HTTP, HTTPS, and native mode. And HTTP itself gets a boost with an enhanced object prefetch engine to help speed up access to Web applications such as SharePoint and SAP.

One of the features that made a splash a couple of years ago was RiOS's ability to optimize SSL traffic. In RiOS 6, setting up HTTPS optimization is a snap. Simply import your SSL certificates into each server-side Steelhead appliance, and any connected remote appliance will automatically create the in-path optimization rule. This even holds true for wild card (for example, * certificates. Also, for customers that employ SSL over higher-latency links, RiOS 6 can reuse a previous SSL session key. This will help reduce SSL setup time, as well as unnecessary round-trips and processing time on the server, providing a nice boost in client response time.

Riverbed Services Platform
Riverbed Services Platform (RSP) is the built-in VMware virtualization platform for hosting prebuilt or custom packages. The appliance has five slots, each with its own RAM settings, heartbeat intervals, and optimization policies. New to RiOS 6 is support for adding disk space to a virtual machine, routing around or failing open when a VM fails a heartbeat check, and deploying a VM with multiple virtual network interfaces. Plus, optimization policy can be applied independently to each virtual machine. Flexibility is key with RSP.

The Riverbed Services Platform allows admins to explicitly define where the virtual machine sits in the optimization stream as well as what to do in the event of a VM failure.
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