by July 5, 2008 0 comments

WAN connectivity has always been a concern for every enterprise. The
bandwidth in India is not too costly today but it’s not that cheap yet either.
The availability of high speed bandwidth in India is still limited and is mostly
restricted to Class A and B cities. Being a vast country geographically,
whenever we talk about multi-city connectivity, the latency due to the distance
becomes a major concern. We might keep spending money and upgrading bandwidth,
but we generally tend to forget that we cannot reduce the distance between the
two disparate locations and hence cannot reduce the latency between them.

Our experience suggests that if you double the link speed and at the same
time increase the latency to five times, then the actual data transfer speed
remains near about the same. So, there are two critical factors responsible for
a slow WAN: bandwidth (if it’s not enough for the requirement) and latency. This
WAN accelerator is capable of managing both. It uses different technologies,
such as Application/protocol independent Caching, Protocol optimization (to
reduce the chattiness of applications to combat latency), Compression, WAFS
(Wide Area File system), and Web Application Acceleration to enhance data access
over WAN.

Rs 5,25,000 (1 yr warranty)
Key Specs: Application independent
caching, Protocol optimization, Compression, WAFS and Web application
Pros: Easy configuration, data transfer
at normal speed in case of device failure
Cons: None
Contact: Riverbed Technology, Bangalore
Tel: 984 506 4744
SMS Buy 130786 to 56677

We received two boxes of the Riverbed SteelHead 1020 WAN accelerator for
review. They were essentially standard 1U rack mountable servers running dual
Xeon processors. Configuring them was not difficult. You can directly connect a
monitor and a keyboard to these boxes and boot into Steelhead’s OS, which drops
you into a shell with a set of configuration commands; this pretty much
resembles the CISCO router interface. From this interface you can configure the
IP addresses of the box’s WAN and primary interface. And once you do that you
can use the Primary port’s IP address to connect the web based interface of the
device for configuration and for monitoring the box graphically. As the name
suggests, the WAN port is used to terminate the WAN link to the box. You would
also find a port called the ‘LAN’ just next to the WAN port. This port doesn’t
require any additional IP address and again as the name suggests, is used to
connect the LAN to this device.

Test Results
To test this device thoroughly, we connected both WAN ports of the device to
each other through a WAN emulator and kept the subnet of both WANs as the same.
We configured the WAN emulator to emulate a network with 256Kbps of bandwidth
and 100 ms of latency. We then connected one of the WAN accelerator’s LAN port
to our test network which had a couple of servers (Web, CIFS, FTP, etc). We then
connected the LAN port of the other box to a standard Core 2 Duo machine with
Windows XP SP2. One good feature of the device is that even if it completely
fails (due to power or hardware failure) it still doesn’t disrupt WAN
connectivity; the data still passes through the device but of course

Once the setup was done, we first tried copying some data from the CIFS
server to the XP client. We first tried copying a 10MB folder with different
types of files, mostly zipped, so the scope of compressing it was negligible. It
took around 420 seconds to copy the entire data. Then we tried to copy the same
file again and the process happened in less than 5 seconds. The devices use
caching techniques to reduce the time taken for copying a file.

We then checked the time taken for the same 10 MB file to get copied without
the WAN accelerators in place. We removed both the accelerators from the network
and repeated the copying process again. This time the file took around 702
seconds to copy which is around 1.7 times more. This shows that, the device can
easily increase the speed to near about double even the first time data is
copied, which is commendable as the folder already contained zipped files that
could not be compressed any further.

Next, we decided to check how well this device works with text docs. We
created a single 4 MB text file and copied it without the accelerator. The file
took 229 seconds to get copied. Then we placed the WAN accelerators back in the
path and did the test again; this time it just took 17 seconds. Which is around
13.5 times faster. We copied it again through the accelerator and this time it
just took a second to copy.

Then we created a single 10MB text file with the same line written 1000 times
and tried copying with and without the accelerators in place. This time the
device easily detected that the file is highly compressible (as it had the same
text lines repeated) and it copied the complete 10MB file in 2.5 seconds, which
without the accelerators took somewhere around 700 seconds to get copied.

Then we tried modifying some part of the files which was once copied, or
renaming or changing their location. The device was smart enough to understand
each time that this is the same file and copied only the modifications instead
of copying the full file again and again and completed the copying process in a
few seconds. We even tried copying the same file through different protocols
(such as HTTP and FTP), but in this case also the device identified the files as
being copied earlier and just copied the modifications wherever necessary.

BOTTOM LINE : Overall the device gave us around 80% compression in all
protocols tested and gave marvelous results. So, if you are being bogged down
with poor speeds across your WAN links, then give this product a try.

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