Networking

VoIP continues its march on the enterprise, while WAN management tools get even better

The steady march of VoIP on the enterprise continued this year, but with at least one important difference: The big boys finally adopted SIP. We saw very nice SIP PBX servers from Avaya and Siemens, as well as capable if rougher-hewn open source implementations from Digium and Pingtel.

Other noteworthy developments in networking came courtesy of Dell, whose PowerConnect switches hit new highs on the value chart, and vendors such as Packeteer and Riverbed Technologies, both of which have marvelous solutions for squeezing the most out of the WAN.

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ACCELERATORS AND TRAFFIC MANAGERS

8e6 TurboPipe NP T100 Version 3.1 

8e6 Technologies  

Very Good, 8.0

Bottom Line: The TurboPipe NP T100 offers excellent traffic monitoring and reporting in addition to controllable bandwidth usage based on application and limits of the connection. It is somewhat more difficult to use than Packeteer's PacketShaper and lacks compression, but it also costs less.

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Packeteer PacketShaper 9500 Version 7.0 

Packeteer 

Excellent, 8.8

Bottom Line: PacketShaper 9500 combines easy setup and configuration with enterprise-class extras such as centralized management of multiple appliances, compression between sites, and sophisticated WAN traffic monitoring, including adaptive responses to changing traffic. It's pricey but extremely capable.

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Riverbed Technology Steelhead 3010 

Riverbed Technology 

Excellent, 9.0

Bottom Line: The Steelhead appliances continue to provide exceptional performance and time savings on WAN circuits, especially those with high latency or low bandwidth. The 3010 adds Proxy File Service to allow specific performance enhancements for MS SQL and continuous service even if the WAN is down. Installation and maintenance are a breeze and don't require infrastructure changes.

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Swan Labs WANJet 

Swan Labs 

Preview

Bottom Line: Swan Labs' newest line of appliances combines tried-and-true WAN optimization, application-layer acceleration, and traffic-shaping in a single solution. In situations where latency is a problem, WANJet can greatly improve response time by reducing the total number of TCP round-trips.

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MEDIA NETWORKING

Aastra VentureIP 480i v.2.9.0 

Aastra Technologies 

Good, 7.3

Bottom Line: Aastra's VentureIP line of SIP phones is designed to provide many features of a PBX-based phone system without the PBX. It succeeds to some extent, producing a phone system with many features that's reasonably easy to set up. Although it's not always easy to use, it is relatively expensive. Its features are limited and some, such as unified messaging, are missing entirely.

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Avaya Communication Manager 3.0 and Converged Communications Server 

Avaya 

Very Good, 8.4

Bottom Line: Avaya's two-part SIP solution is aimed at the larger enterprise and consists of a pair of Linux servers. Legacy support is great: Communication Manager connects to and between nearly any other form of telephony. For companies that want to move into standards-based IP telephony, this is a good start.

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Digium Asterisk V1.0.3 

Digium 

Good, 7.4

Bottom Line: Asterisk is a classic open source solution. You can get the basics by downloading it, but installation requires expertise. Plus, you need to find hardware and software support for phones without direct Ethernet connections via SIP. The real cost may lie in training a staffer -- or hiring someone -- to integrate it all.

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Pingtel SIPxchange v. 2.4 

Pingtel 

Good, 7.9

Bottom Line: Pingtel brings all the good things about open source to the table. You still need expertise to get this product up and running, but the graphical tools are a boon for administrators and make basic tasks, such as configuring users when they're added, easier to accomplish. SIPxchange is worth its price.

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Siemens HiPath 8000 Real-Time IP System 

Siemens 

Very Good, 8.6

Bottom Line: Siemens HiPath 8000 consists of the PBX software and a companion feature server from IP Unity. Together, they're a functional, capable IP telephony server and soft switch that handle a huge number of users. It's designed from the ground up as a SIP device, and we found it relatively easy to use and manage.

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TeleCommunication Systems SwiftLink 2300 

TeleCommunication Systems 

Very Good, 8.3

Bottom Line: The SwiftLink 2300 is designed to be a complete, secure communications environment for a mobile worker. It's a hefty unit, carried in a backpack or rolling suitcase, and sets up in a few minutes. The 2300 includes a rugged Panasonic laptop, interfaces to a variety of media, and supports solid voice, video, and data communications. A more integrated management approach would be nice.

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TeleCommunication Systems SwiftLink 5110 

TeleCommunication Systems 

Very Good, 8.3

Bottom Line: The SwiftLink 5110 allows you to bring your own cell service wherever you go. Each GSM cell site device supports seven callers and can connect to the PSTN through various means. Call range is affected by your surroundings, but the 5110 covers a good area, and you can add units for greater range. Another important note: It supports only GSM phones but will call out to any type of phone if connected to the PSTN.

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TeleCommunication Systems SwiftLink DVM-90 

TeleCommunication Systems 

Very Good, 8.4

Bottom Line: The SwiftLink DVM-90 VSAT terminal lives up to its Mongoose nickname with automatic setup and satellite acquisition. It provides a high-bandwidth connection and can be used with a variety of devices, including the SwiftLink 2300 and 5110 and any Ethernet device. It's not the most convenient portal device -- you'll need two backpacks to transport it.

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Versatel IQ1500L 

Versatel Networks 

Excellent, 8.9

Bottom Line: The IQ1500L is a significant improvement over its capable predecessor. In addition to its existing flexibility, the new version adds power redundancy and doubles the density in the same 3U form factor. Verastel has a number of apps that run on the IQ1500L and offers a developer's kit and APIs for developing your own.

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Zultys MX250 

Zultys Technologies 

Very Good, 8.4

Bottom Line: The new MX250 is similar to the product we tested last year, but recent upgrades boost performance and add memory as well as RAID storage. It's still a solid solution for small and midsize enterprises. Scalability is adequate, and you don't need years of telephony experience to set up and manage the MX250.

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NETWORK INFRASTRUCTURE

Avocent DSR1021 and DSView 3.0 

Avocent 

Very Good, 8.0

Bottom Line: With a required, dedicated Windows server as the front end for this distributed secure IP KVM solution, Avocent's approach gets a bit expensive. But the dedicated server allows the impressive DSView 3.0 management app to provide remote console access to a huge number of users.

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Dell PowerConnect 2724 

Dell 

Very Good, 8.2

Bottom Line: Dell's PowerConnect 2724 features 24 10/100/1000 copper ports plus two shared SFP-based fiber ports -- all at an impressive $15 per port. Suitable for small-business networks, it lacks a command-line interface and some common features, but it's a managed 10/100/1000 Ethernet switch for little money.

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Dell PowerConnect 3424P 

Dell 

Very Good, 8.6

Bottom Line: It's hard to argue with a 24-port 10/100 managed, stackable switch with PoE (Power over Ethernet) and four Gigabit uplink ports for less than $1,000. The 3424P offers quite an array of enterprise-class features in a tidy package. Long-term testing of its predecessor shows that these switches seem ready for the long haul.

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Infoblox-1000 DNSone 

Infoblox 

Very Good, 8.0

Bottom Line: The Infoblox-1000 DNS and DHCP appliance makes its mark with simple high-availability and clustering features, and its Active Directory integration is better than Microsoft's own alternatives. We experienced some hardware issues, and the Web interface can be sluggish across low-bandwidth connections.

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Raritan Dominion KX232 and KX432 

Raritan Computer 

Very Good, 8.1

Bottom Line: A built-in Web server gives the Dominon KVMs a cost advantage yet provides long-distance server control. These aren't KVMs that you'll find at the corner computer shop; they're enterprise-class units that enable IT managers to reach out and touch a troubled server, even to the point of making BIOS changes.

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Red Hat Directory Server 7.1 

Red Hat 

Preview

Bottom Line: Built on the foundation of Netscape's Directory Server, which was acquired by Red Hat last year, RHDS brings much-needed features to the open source directory server landscape. Key enhancements include a boost in write performance, full support for symmetric multiprocessing, data partitioning across several servers, four-way multimaster replication via LDAPv3, replication cascading, extensible schema, and bidirectional password synchronization with Windows 2000 Active Directory and Windows NT Security Accounts Manager.

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StarTech.com SV841HDI 

StarTech.com 

Good, 7.0

Bottom Line: The SV841HDI's IP interface appears somewhat undercooked. The Linux -based switch supports PS/2 and USB connected hosts through special cabling, not UTP. IP connections come through a built-in Web interface and VNC. Performance wasn't great, but for the low price, it's an adequate KVM.

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NETWORK MANAGEMENT

Gigamon GigaVue-MP Data-Access Switch 1.0 

Gigamon Systems 

Preview

Bottom Line: The GigaVue-MP is a modular system that provides line-speed port aggregation, switching, filtering, and duplication of streams via an out-of-band switch fabric for network analysis. Its combination of pre- and post-filtering allows you to match any link to any tool, as well as perform many-to-one and one-to-many switching.

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Network Physics NetSensory OS 5.0 

Network Physics 

Preview

Bottom Line: Network Physics' NetSensory appliances offer an unparalleled view into the health of the network by capturing dozens of performance metrics and providing the means to understand the results. Probably the most welcome addition to the 5.0 release are NetSensory Insights, predefined templates that allow quick access to critical information. Insights minimize the time needed to view and analyze virtually any type of network information.

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Niksun NetVCR 2005 

Niksun 

Excellent, 8.8

Bottom Line: With network performance trending, SLA/QoS monitoring, alerting, and broad reporting tools, Niksun NetVCR 2005 proved to be a complete network-analysis package. Additional modules are available to handle VoIP traffic and more. If you need to know everything about your network, this is a great solution.

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Splunk Technology Splunk Personal Server 

Splunk Technology 

Preview

Bottom Line: Taking a lightweight, Web-search-style approach to all-purpose log analysis, Splunk builds a searchable index of machine data from multiple log files, organizes the data into events, and allows you to search through these events by time, text string, and keyword via Web browser. Splunk's algorithms determine degrees of similarity and difference among distinct event types, allowing you to produce quick views of related, similar, or unexpected events from all of your log sources.

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WIRELESS

Adtran Tracer 5045 

Adtran 

Good, 7.6

Bottom Line: The Tracer 5045 combines excellent range with copper network-side throughput connectivity and a fixed 90Mbps throughput capacity based on T1-size increments. Some admins may be put off by the external multimeters that measure signal strength, but this approach means a lower cost.

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Adtran Tracer 6420 

Adtran 

Good, 7.6

Bottom Line: Adtran's 6420 is similar to the 5045 but adds a modular backplane architecture, so it can use a variety of connectivity cards with an aggregate throughput of 33.6Mbps. This flexibility reduces its overall throughput capabilities but allows managers to configure a device to their precise needs and save money.

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Canon Canobeam DT-110 

Canon 

Good, 7.4

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