I will cut to the chase
We are looking for WAN optimization in hopes to improve primarily our CIFS communication from branch to data center.
I am reviewing 2 products
1. Riverbed Steelhead Appliances
2. Cisco WAAS
We have fairly low latent connections (<30ms), so the caching of large redundently accessed files would prove valuable. I think the low latency means we are probably seeing the best speeds we can get with ICA, but maybe I am wrong.
So who wants to chime in and give me their 2 cents on whether nor not one is better over the other? We run Citrix of course, and it would be nice to go with a product that can optimize traffic for Citrix too, but I am not looking for packetshaper or anything like that. We are happy with ICA performance thus far, but it would be nice to give it some juice.
That said, anyone work with these products?
PS: What happened to the forums? The new format.... =(
Without question, I'd go for the Riverbed product, it is a far superior choice to the Cisco offering. As I understand it, the Cisco basically does File caching, whilst the rest do byte-sequence caching. This means if you have a document, and change the last line, then from a file caching point of view, it has changed, so it has to be retransmitted.
But byte sequence caching looks at the first 99% of that dcoument, and says "Hey, I already have that chunk of data in my datastore, so I only need to send the last line"... end result is far better data savings.
(it's interesting, but all of Expand / Juniper / Citrix / Riverbed put Cisco's offerings low down on their competitive lists... kinda says something!)
If you are interested in your Citrix ICA traffic, you might also want to look at the Citrix Wanscaler, as it is the ONLY product that can (a) give cross-sessional compression for ICA traffic; (b) provide QoS for the different types of Citrix traffic (interactive vs file vs print....).You will also find that its "TCP Fast Ramp" will make the ICA traffic a bit "snappier".
The Wanscaler also includes CIFS accelerations, similar to the Riverbed.
In all cases, what will (hopefully) happen is that your CIFS traffic will get some good compression, thus using less of your WAN bandwidth, leaving more for the ICA traffic
(FYI: I have no real knowledge of the Cisco products, but I actively support Citrix Wanscaler, Riverbed Steelhead and Expand products, & historically supported the Juniper offering when it was Peribit)
Also Citrix with their 5.5 release also perform MAPI acceleration and they have the Branch Repeater range now which can also have built in Windows Server 2003 when you can use as a DC, DNS, DHCP, File respository, print server.
The cool thing about the Branch Repeater is you may (depending on requirements of course) be able to remove the current server in your branch office and integrate it into this one Branch Repeater which also does WAN Acceleration. I think it is quite a tidy product.
Have you looked at Expand Networks or a Wanscaler? They both offer a virtual appliance device for Wan optimization.
The WanScaler isn't virtual, only the NetScaler VPX is and it is provided as a XenServer virtual appliance.
I would put an expand at the bottom of my shopping list: in terms of deployment, they are very complicated to set up, and all the "extra abilites" make it even worse!
The original question was asking for information on the cisco vs Riverbed, which is why I didn't spend time on it. If I were putting the Riverbed head-to-head with the Wanscaler, I would probably say that Riverbed wins for non-XenApp / XenDesktop scenarios, but use the Wanscaler if you use XenApp or Xen Desktop.
Version 5.5 Wanscaler has brought in Mapi accelerations, and yes, as someone commented, there is the "Branch Repeater" version of the product which lets you have an integrated wanscaler / Windows server (if that's what you want! :-) ).
Riverbed has more application optimisations, and I believe its compression performance may well be a little better than the wanscaler.
Paul Blitz:I would put an expand at the bottom of my shopping list: in terms of deployment, they are very complicated to set up, and all the "extra abilites" make it even worse!
I'm interested in knowing in which way Expand is complicated to set up? My experience is that is relatively easy to set up (the basic config) as it does not try to guess things up (autoconfig), but of course you need to know what you are doing. It can do a lot of acceleration for ICA but not just for protocol level but as a combination of several things/level (QoS, TCP acceleration, compression and ICA acceleration).
And yes, I have witnessed that things can go horribly wrong with WAN acceleration if people are not aware a) how their network is actually working/set-up, b) have out-of-band issues like duplex issues with NICs, c) have mixed firmware version between boxes etc. It really is about doing things in professional and consistent manner, something most of so called "IT professionals" are unable to do (sadly). I also would not let network people have free roam in WAN optimization product's configuration as network people do not understand applications and WAN optimization is really about application optimization, period.
if you have only 2 or 3 units to set up, it's not too bad.
However, if you have maybe 20 or 50 of them (and let's put them in a full mesh to REALLY make it a PITA), then on EACH unit you have to effectively build a static routing table (you create a tunnel from unit to unit, then tell it what traffic to route via the tunnel)
Then if you add in another unit, you have to go to each of the other units it connects to, and add in the new extra route.
Oh, what fun!
Riverbed Steelhead and Citrix Wanscaler both detect remote units dynamically, so from that perspective, very little to set up.
We use Silver Peak. I was concerned when they were chosen over Citrix's own WAN acceleration devices, that any ICA changes Citrix may choose to make might cause them to stop working as effectively. I've seen them in action though and particularly for videos, have seen a massive drop in WAN traffic, as Silver Peak cache in the offices is used. We disable Citrix client encyption (so Silver Peak can get at the traffic) and compression (to let Silver Peak handle it).
You may also want to look into Silver Peak as well.
Many organizations, such as Google, EBay, Linklaters, VMware and VISA are now turning to Silver Peak (http://www.silver-peak.com/Technology/ ) to keep their WAN infrastructure strong and capable, while ensuring cost avoidance. By using the latest in WAN acceleration technology, the Silver Peak solution provides the following tangible business benefits:
Feel free to contact me for more information. I can be reached at email@example.com
+1 for RiverBed.
I got demo units from just about every major company and tested them all myself.
It wasn't even close. RiverBed blew all of them out of the water. I average a little over 10x bandwidth increase with them.
Hey Paul (and others) -
I'm just now getting up to speed on this band wagon and in the process of evaluating both Riverbed and WanScaler/Branch Repeater. I'm writing to see if your stance has changed much since you wrote this post in 2009.
We are a relatively small group that has been running a Citrix pilot/small production environment for a few years now. 400 users. We currently have a WanScaler at our location and 5 remote locations with Branch repeaters. My goal has been to eliminate as many field servers as we can, bring all the data from those servers into our shop locally and server all apps and data via Citrix. I had about 75 more locations to go. Now others want in because they are seeing the benefits of what we have been doing. The thing is that this new group that wants to join us had decided Steelhead was best for what they "were" doing. I agreed to look at and consider Steelhead in our environment.
Our Steelhead contact tells me they are in cahoots with Citrix and in reality, their Steelhead box does a better job of optimizing ICA traffic that WanScaler does. Sales pitch or fact?
Any comments or more current or up-to-date thoughts would be appreciated.
We've recently tested Citrix Branch Repeater VPX against the Riverbed virtual Steelhead for optimising and accelerating ICA/HDX traffic across the WAN.
We found the Steelhead performed significantly better. Our focus for testing was on user experience, including multimedia such as sound and video through ICA sessions from thinclients to XenApp 6.5 server.
We're in the middle of a POC with the Citrix Branch Repeater VPX after a very successful POC with the Riverbed Steelhead appliance. I am inclined to agree with you that the Steelhead outperforms the Branch Repeater in every aspect including ICA.
Would you happen to have any data of your comparisons to share with me? It would be really interesting to see their differences in numbers.