Who's using the Citrix Branch Repeater?

It's not meant to be a condescending question, "Who's using the Citrix Branch Repeater?" I really just want to know who's got it and how they use it.

It's not meant to be a condescending question, "Who's using the Citrix Branch Repeater?"  I really just want to know who's got it and how they use it.  Since I first heard about the device sometime last year (or was it the year before...these product announcements are starting to run together in my head), I've been intrigued by it, but I've yet to get my hands on one (Maybe I'm not asking the right person.  If you have one in a lab and can let me peck at it for a bit, send me an email).

In case you don't know about the device, it's used in tandem with a Citrix Repeater (formerly known as WANScaler) to deploy applications to a branch office.  The Branch Repeater functions as the remote-side WANScaler and as a local site cache for virtual (ICA-provided) applications.

In addition to the "regular" Branch Repeater, Citrix also offers a Citrix Branch Repeater with Windows Server, which is basically a Windows Server implementation with a WANScaler client on it, tweaked to work as an appliance.  This device does the same thing as the regular Branch Repeater, but adds in the functionality of serving as an on-site domain controller, DNS/DHCP server, and file/print server.  Also, in addition to the thin-protocol application caching, it also servers as a remote cache for streamed applications.

Obviously, the Windows Server variant is the more intriguing of the two, since it's essentially a "remote site in a box."  In past lives, I would've jumped at the chance to send out to a remote site a single box that could do what this one does.   Properly managed, you could bring up a site in the fraction of the time it would take to create individual servers to handle each role, then ship, travel, and install them.  Operations costs would be reduced, too, because there would be less power and space consumed at the remote sites, which in my experience are short on “real” data center space anyway.  I’ve seen a lot of branch offices where the server(s) are placed in a corner of a telco closet, where they’re most likely used as a multipurpose table for anyone working in that room.

So, having no hands-on experience with it myself, can anyone share their experiences?  Is the plain Branch Repeater worthwhile when there's a more powerful/feature-rich option available?  For the Windows Server version, Citrix lists all those Windows specific features (DNS/DHCP, etc...), and tacks on an "and more," so is the Branch Repeater with Windows Server even more extensible?  Can you, for instance, add Exchange to it and keep a local message store for the site where it resides?  Or maybe put SQL on it with a local replica of the CRM data store?  Maybe I’m asking too much :)

Please, post your thoughts in the comments below or send me an email at gabe@brianmadden.com.

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Here is an example of a customer who is using Branch Repeater with Windows Server to realize all the benefits you mention:


"We were able to reduce our upfront costs by more than 25 percent and at the same time reduce our total cost of ownership because the solution is energy efficient, requires minimum administration and takes up less space.” (Equinox Energy)

Branch Repeater with Windows Server is designed to be an extensible platform for essential services that must remain in the branch office. Here is the current list of compatible and supported software you can run on the appliance:

• All contents of the Microsoft 2003 R2 distribution installed on Branch Repeater with Windows Server (i.e. File, Print, DHCP, DNS, WINS, AD, Domain Controller, DFS)

• Microsoft ISA Server Enterprise Edition 2006 Web Cache

• Microsoft SCOM Agent

• Symantec Antivirus

• McAfee Antivirus

• HP OpenView Operations, version 7.5

• IBM Director

• Microsoft SMS SP3 (as secondary site)

Branch Repeater with Windows Server does not support running a local Exchange and SQL Server. Instead Branch Repeater makes it easier to centralize these services in the datacenter by accelerating application traffic across the WAN and reducing bandwidth consumption.

Given the choice most people want to position these types of mission-critical applications with very sensitive data inside the datacenter – not at the branch. That enables a number of things, including better security, leveraging of existing storage, centralized management, etc.


The real issue is that the network folks are Cisco biggots and don't care about more iron that they don't understand in their network.


We installed a Citrix Repeater (WANscaler) at our main site and a Branch Repeater at the remote office last autumn. We link up to the remote office via VPN between Europe and Asia, supporting a handful of users, mainly delivering a full Citrix Desktop.

Where we benefit from Branch Repeater is for everything non-SBC, i.e.

- AD replication,

- file replication (software packages for local deployment via Group Policy, netlogon shares),

- printing (we print "outside ICA" directly from the print server at the headquarter to each printer)

- Simple QoS by prioritizing VoIP and ICA over the rest

Yes it does not do much for ICA at this time, although the next version is supposed to bring some improvements, and yes it cannot not remove the 330 ms RTD we have across 3 continents, which impacts the user experience in Citrix no matter what you do.

But the benefits lie in the control and manageability you gain, besides the fact that the Branch Repeater is a true "remote office in a box" that gave us the plug&play experience we hoped for.

We purchased the unit in Europe, completely configured and tested it in our lab. Then, after a 13-hour-flight, I literally took it from my luggage, dropped it in place, switched it on and started joining local workstations to the domain.

There are other solutions out there that can do the the WAN optimizations like Riverbed and WAAS (for the Cisco bigots :-) and others, but we felt that the branch repeater package was attractive because it contains technology from 2 vendors we already use (MS and Citrix) and it is more than just acceleration because it's also DC/DNS/DHCP/print server/file repository etc.

And the price tag was bearable as well. Which does not mean it's cheap, mind you ..