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
Although Riverbed is best known for its site-to-site WAN acceleration appliances, it hasn't forgotten teleworkers, road warriors, and small branch offices. Steelhead Mobile is Riverbed's software client for accelerating individual remote connections to the data center over the WAN or Internet. Instead of having to deploy a Steelhead appliance for even the smallest branch office, IT can simply push the Steelhead Mobile client to users' desktops and laptops, and they can take advantage of Riverbed's best-of-class acceleration and optimization wherever they might be -- or roam.
The newly released Riverbed Steelhead Mobile 3.1 fills in a number of features that were missing in previous versions. The ability to accelerate HTTPS, Exchange 2010 (encrypted MAPI), and Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop traffic streams, and support for Server Message Block (SMB) signing for secure Windows file sharing are now built in. Best of all, in addition to 32-bit Windows editions, Steelhead Mobile now runs on Windows 7 64-bit and Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) and Snow Leopard (10.6). Overall, performance on Windows and Mac OS X proved on a par with the physical appliance, with FTP traffic lagging ever so slightly behind all other traffic types.
[ Also on InfoWorld: The best free tools combine firewall friendliness with easy remote access and an amazing array of handy features. See "InfoWorld review: Free remote access tools for Windows and Mac." ]
Like a Steelhead appliance at the branch office, the Steelhead Mobile client works with a Steelhead at the opposite end of the link to reduce application protocol chattiness and deduplicate the data traveling over the network. In addition to at least one Steelhead appliance in the data center, a Steelhead Mobile deployment requires a Steelhead Mobile Controller, which serves as the management and reporting system for the clients.
I tested Steelhead Mobile using both a Windows XP Pro PC and a MacBook Pro as my endpoints and a Steelhead 2050 as my data center appliance. Instead of installing another appliance for the Steelhead Mobile Controller, I simply deployed the Steelhead Mobile Controller Virtual Edition on my Steelhead 2050 using the Riverbed Services Platform, a built-in virtualization platform based on VMware. I simulated various WAN speeds and conditions using a Shunra Storm VE appliance and my test automation relied on Macro Scheduler from MJT Net.