Shape up your WAN traffic
Packeteer and 8e6 traffic managers offer choice between luxury and thrift
Traffic across WAN connections always seems to grow faster than available bandwidth. Tools to help optimize application usage of available bandwidth continue to increase in capability and sophistication. Both 8e6 Technologies' TurboPipe NP T100 and Packeteer's PacketShaper 9500 appliances offer traffic monitoring and control, using a sophisticated variety of possible criteria for shaping traffic. They can control traffic based on source, destination, type of application, and more, giving the administrator plenty of flexibility in prioritizing the most important traffic and restricting unwanted traffic such as peer-to-peer file sharing or network gaming.
The TurboPipe NP T100 will handle as much as 10Mbps of traffic, at a price of $11,995 with one management console. The PacketShaper 9500 offers a capacity of as much as 500Mbps, and compressed traffic rates of as fast as 45Mbps, with prices starting at $34,000. Both companies offer other models to accommodate varying speeds. The PacketShaper's higher score in this review is not due so much to bandwidth capacity -- because it is also priced much higher -- it is due to easier setup and administration, better documentation, and additional features such as compression and centralized administration of multiple units.
Each product can function with a single appliance at the main office, but both can offer additional features if there are appliances at each branch office as well. These additional capabilities range from compression to routing non-IP protocols such as IPX.
Some organizations might find these devices worthwhile simply for their reporting and analysis capabilities. They can identify network traffic by the type of application creating the traffic, showing the end-user, the application, the amount of traffic generated, and many more details. Although network analysis programs can duplicate this, the ease with which these appliances collect and display traffic statistics is outstanding.
Both products support a wide variety of network applications, from protocols such as H.323 for videoconferencing and IP telephony to specific streams used by Oracle, PeopleSoft, and other enterprise applications. They provide a considerable step up in ease of use from previous products that required defining network behavior at the packet level before bandwidth could be controlled.
Either product will enable the administrator to exercise great control of which WAN traffic gets through first, last, or not at all. Whether the TurboPipe or the PacketShaper will be a better fit for your organization will depend on your network topology and other factors such as your compression requirements.
TurboPipe NP T100 Version 3.1
The TurboPipe solution consists of two parts: the appliance itself, which 8e6 calls the TurboPipe NP Engine, and the management software, dubbed the TurboPipe NP Console. The Console can be installed on any Windows PC. The Engine and Console are licensed separately; additional Console licenses are $500 each. I also found that running the Console -- on both Windows XP systems I tried -- made running any other networked application very difficult.
Initial installation of the TurboPipe NP T100 can be done by plugging keyboard, mouse, and monitor directly into the unit, or via serial terminal. After basic network information is entered, the rest of the configuration is done via the Console software.