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Silver Peak Announces Virtual WAN Optimization Platform

Silver Peak joins the ranks of other WAN optimizers such as Blue Coat, A10 Networks, Riverbed, Certeon and others with a virtual platform under the VX family name. But Silver Peak is the first vendor to claim to optimize the IP layer, which is used by real-time protocols such as SIP and video. More efficient protocols should translate into better sounding calls. Competing accelerators accelerate the TCP layer, which is rarely used by SIP-based systems.

WAN optimizers improve by application performance by using various techniques including increasing cache, buffer sizes and only moving essential, changing data over the WAN. "Our issue was latency," say Mark Kent, director of network engineer at Intermedia, a Silver Peak customer, "You have 80ms between the two coasts. Given TCP's receive window size of 64 Kbytes/s, you can't get more than 6 Mbytes/s  even if you're running 10GbE link coast-to-coast. WAN optimizers have gigantic buffers so get much better performance."

Virtual platforms have the added advantage that updates and upgrades can be deployed remotely without any staff intervention in the branch thus saving time and money, and making it far easier to keep these optimization protocols up to speed. "Putting a virtual appliance was easy for us, because we don't have to install any hardware. Our VMware team just types a few keys and there it is. We don't have to ship anything, track anything, cabling becomes a nightmare with boxes and we don't have to touch that," says Kent.

IT pros know all too well the risks of running an I/O and compute intensive application like WAN optimization in software. Similar problems, such as software routers, haven't been able to scale to the needs of the data center. However, Silver Peak isn't pushing virtualization yet in the very high-end accounts. The VX family currently includes four optimizers ranging from the VX-1000 (up to 4 Mbps and 8,000 simultaneous user sessions) to the VX-5000 (Up to 50 Mbps WAN capacity and 64,000 simultaneous user sessions).

While other vendors also deliver WAN optimizers, Silver Peak claims to differentiate itself in part by enabling real-time collaboration optimization, enhancing voice and data communications, were time-lags caused by the WAN bandwidth are very noticeable. "Riverbed only handles TCP. We run SIP for our phone system [which runs over UDP/IP] so that was interesting. We accelerate the SIP line, but we don't measure performance perse just that I've never gotten an internal complaint about our phone system," says Kent. The VX family requires VMware ESX or ESXi (version 4.0 or later).  Server hardware configurations will vary based on appliance load and model. Silver Peak' Global management System (GMS) has also been virtualized with pricing starting at $9,995