Lab test: Packeteer iShaper is the new king of CIFS
Packeteer's combination WAN accelerator and traffic shaper is second to none in speed of CIFS transfers, and among the leaders in overall performance; however, the benefits of shared byte-level caching await the next release
FTP traffic is better in this release but still not up to the results posted by Riverbed. Compared to the results of last year's iShared test, iShaper has cut Packeteer's FTP times by more than half for both 128Kbps and T1 links. What is odd is that FTP performance is slower than CIFS performance using the very same test files and link speeds. A user would be better off copying the file via CIFS than FTP. The MAPI save attachment test also cut its time from last release in half, a very nice increase in speed. But as with FTP, Steelhead just edges out iShaper in MAPI performance.
Unlike Riverbed's byte- or segment-level caching, which is shared across all traffic, Packeteer's Wide Dictionary Compression (WDC) is isolated by traffic type. For example, if I copy a file using CIFS or NFS across the WAN, and then another user FTPs the same file via the same WAN circuit, the FTP does not receive any benefit of my previous file copy. Only on subsequent FTP copies will WDC come into play. Packeteer says this will change in the iShaper 4.0 release, due in Q3 2008, which will share byte-level caching across all traffic types.
Recently, both Cisco and Riverbed announced plans to host third-party applications on their appliances. Because of iShaper's Windows Storage Server foundation, it is already poised to provide branch offices with additional services without additional overhead. Services such as local file storage and application and printer sharing are all available as they would be on a Windows server.
Users of Packeteer's PacketShaper will be happy to know that there is a full implementation of it inside iShaper. All QoS and traffic prioritization tools are there, including application classification and policy enforcement. Traffic shaping takes place in both inbound and outbound directions and is not limited to "port only" classification. iShaper includes more than 600 application definitions to help correctly identify traffic passing through the device and apply the right shaping policy. Traffic moves first through the iShared optimization engine, and then on to PacketShaper, allowing for application specific optimizations and caching to take place before any shaping policies.
I tested the traffic shaping capabilities by creating a series of traffic flows through my appliance pair, and then firing off a unique protected traffic flow. The protected flow was guaranteed 50 percent of the available bandwidth and given a higher priority than the other traffic. In every case, my protected traffic (in this case, a VoIP call) passed through without any problems, even when the link was fully saturated.
One of the best things about iShaper is the single point of administration for both services. I found it relatively easy to navigate between shaping and optimization services from my browser, although the user interface is split into two distinct menu systems. Easy-to-understand dashboards and reports make real-time monitoring of both optimization and traffic flows quick and easy. The Link Utilization graph provides proof that iShaper is exceeding the rated capacity of the circuit; note the 252 percent increase in inbound traffic.