Packeteer iShared yields mixed WAN optimization results
Appliances delivers a hefty CIFS boost but stumbles on other data
Poorly performing WAN links continue to be the bane of many network administrators. Wherever there is a WAN link, there will be performance degradation caused by latency and chatty protocols. Simply adding bandwidth is not the answer. Using appliance-based solutions on each end of the WAN circuit, however, can improve overall response time and throughput.
Packeteer’s iShared solution, part of the Tacit acquisition completed in May, uses multiple layers of technology to reduce response time and improve WAN performance. Based on Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, this 2U appliance uses both file- and block-level caching to help decrease traffic on the WAN and provide native DFS (distributed file system) namespace integration. Protocol support includes CIFS, NFS, HTTP, and Microsoft Exchange, and a TCP acceleration service handles other protocol chores (sorry, no support for UDP). Admins can schedule push/pull operations to pre-populate data at the branch office location and define optimization rules for specific applications.
I tested the iShared IS 100 (datacenter) and IS 100 BR (branch office) appliances with the same test tools used for previous WAN optimization and acceleration reviews and found the solution to provide a good overall performance increase. When dealing with CIFS traffic, iShared was hands down the best performing appliance I’ve tested, beating Cisco's and Riverbed rival solutions under all test conditions. iShared faltered, however, when dealing with FTP traffic. Although still up to nearly eight times better than without optimization, FTP performance greatly lagged behind that of other appliances. iShared’s Exchange/MAPI solution is cumbersome both on setup and deployment and didn’t net the same performance increases as other solutions.
Different from its peers
The iShared is unique among all of the WAN optimization appliances I’ve reviewed in the past couple of years. Whereas the rivals run on some Unix/Linux variant, iShared runs on Windows Storage Server R2. This approach was quite deliberate, allowing iShared to hook into an existing DFS deployment natively, letting it cache DFS metadata on the branch office appliances.
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