NX-3500 pushes your WAN to peak performance
Silver Peak's flexible WAN optimizer folds UDP into the acceleration mix
You can always pick out the IT heroes: They’re the ones that keep their users happy -- and productive. Sometimes that’s hard to do when the users have to access applications and data on the other side of an oversubscribed WAN link. It isn’t just a bandwidth issue; a big pipe isn’t always a fast pipe. Users need a reduction in latency and protocol chattiness coupled with TCP optimization and intelligent caching. They need a WAN acceleration and optimization solution.
Silver Peak, a new player in the WAN optimization and acceleration game, is shipping the NX family of appliances that not only scale well and provide terrific performance increases but optimize UDP (User Datagram Protocol)-based applications along with TCP-based traffic. The NX-3500 includes a flexible QoS engine and can define ACLs (access control lists) on a per-tunnel basis. To monitor the overall health of the WAN circuit, reporting information (in the form of real-time and historical charts) is available via the browser-based UI.
A 2U appliance, the NX-3500 comes with dual redundant power supplies, fail-to-wire Gigabit WAN ports, and 500GB of local hard drive space. I tested the NX-3500 in my lab for a few weeks and found the appliance capable of handling a wide range of applications efficiently, although it suffers a bit from lackluster reporting capabilities.
Birds of a Feather
I ran the NX-3500 against the same suite of tests I used to evaluate the Riverbed Steelhead 3010 WAN accelerator last November (infoworld.com/3661). These tests involved FTP, CIFS (Common Internet File System), and Exchange traffic generated by MJ Net’s Macro Scheduler. The only difference in my test bed was the upgrade to the latest Shunra Virtual Enterprise WAN simulation appliance. Overall, Silver Peak’s performance was on par with Riverbed’s, with most results within a few percentage points, but generally slightly lower. Depending on the traffic type, performance increases ranged from double to nearly 30 times that of nonoptimized traffic.
Setting up and installing the NX-3500 was not overly complex; my test setup was operational in less than 45 minutes, with much of the time spent on tunnel definition. A tunnel is made up of an ACL and the various optimization settings such as compression, application acceleration, traffic classification, and QoS. The ACL allows admins to specify which traffic and applications to optimize, as well as which IP addresses should, or should not, be optimized. To protect data while in flight, the NX-3500 supports AES128 hardware-encrypted IPSec tunnels.
Silver Peak’s caching technology, called Network Memory, stores byte segments on the appliances to help speed up repetitive file transfers. It inspects traffic flows looking for pattern matches down to the byte level. As I saw with Steelhead, if a file was passed through via FTP one time and then sent out as a renamed e-mail attachment the next, the NX-3500 would recognize it and only send the changed data.