Packeteer Gets Microsoft Push

New iShaper combines WAN optimization with Microsoft file caching

May 8, 2007

4 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Packeteer has unified its WAN optimization appliances with Microsoft application support for remote offices, in a move that raises questions about what's essential in a WAN optimizer -- and what is merely nice to have. (See Microsoft, Packeteer Intro iShaper.)

The new iShaper appliance weds Packeteer's appliance-based PacketShaper WAN optimizers with the capabilities of its iShared file services software, which is based in part on the vendor's May 2006 acquisition of Tacit for $78 million. (See Packeteer Picks Tacit.) The result is an $11,000 box that improves bandwidth utilization while delivering branch-office support.

In an added twist, Packeteer boasts a partnership with Microsoft to enhance the iShaper's ability to handle voice and video, application quality of service, DNS and DHCP, and "native" support of Microsoft services above and beyond the file and print caching common to many WAN optimizers.

Yet the question remains whether iShaper really adds a deeper level of Microsoft support than other optimizers provide.

"From my perspective, we feel we are bringing new services into the branch. This product is available now, and it's a good extension of what was missing for customers," says Bala Kasiviswanathan, director, Windows Server Branch and Storage Solutions at Microsoft.Microsoft strongly endorsed this announcement, even though Redmond has plenty of other partners. A deal announced last year to create a Microsoft/Citrix remote office solution hasn't materialized, though a product is supposed to emerge later this year. (See Microsoft, Citrix Expand.) And so far, Packeteer's competitors, including Cisco, F5, Juniper, and Riverbed, as well as a range of smaller firms, including Expand, can't claim the same kind of Microsoft endorsement.

Packeteer's Mark Urban, director of product marketing, tries to clarify exactly how the Microsoft services work. "If you have an iShaper in a branch office, you log into Windows via the iShaper," he says. Users have access to the Microsoft domain to take advantage of patches, security, and features related to DNS and DHCP. "You don't have to set up a parallel management domain," Urban states.

Notably, Packeteer's support of Microsoft's ISA Server Firewall won't be available until the fourth quarter of this year.

Another question concerns who will need this kind of box. After all, up to now, Packeteer's made a case for keeping its WAN optimizers and file-caching software separate.

"Part of the challenge is that when the industry talks WAFS they bring the idea of circuit or bandwidth optimization into that same category. Packeteer did a decent job of selling us the case for why [these functions] are different," says Scott Erickson, CTO at Erickson Retirement Communities.In his view, the PacketShaper's ability to use upper-layer quality-of-service control to expand throughput on links to remote sites distinguishes it from other solutions, including those wedded to a router, like Cisco's WAAS. And since he loves the optimizer so much, getting caching and Microsoft services on the same license for remote offices could make a "huge difference" and reduce hardware requirements.

Erickson says his firm needs to offer access for remote construction sites to bandwidth-hogging design and CAD files -- making the iShaper an ideal tool. Still, he hasn't yet committed to buying the new product, citing cost considerations.

At $11,000, Packeteer's new iShaper will cost more than its other products purchased separately. The starting price for PacketShaper is $1,500 for monitoring only; $3,500 with monitoring, shaping, compression, and acceleration up to 2 Mbit/s. The starting price for iShared is $4,600.

One Packeteer customer thinks the iShaper unified solution will be a help with international remote sites where connectivity is poor. Mark Dietrick, CIO and senior associate at architectural design firm Burt Hill, says his company's robust MPLS network in the U.S. lessens the need for WAN optimizers at remote offices, so he's been fine with adding iShared software for file and print services up to now. "Caching alone has worked extremely well for us in the U.S., and we have not felt the need for anything additional to help us with traffic," he says. In parts of the world where the Internet/VPN is used for remote office access, the use of iShaper could be a boon -- though Burt Hill hasn't made a final decision to adopt it.

Both customers see potential benefit in Packeteer's latest wares. But a growing list of competitors claim their own differentiators: Cisco has router integration. (See Cisco Backs Into Optimization and Cisco Accelerates WAN Adoption.) Juniper also plans to add a module based on its application accelerators to its routers this year. Riverbed and Expand offer SSL support, which Juniper says it supports as part of HTTPS. Blue Coat supports laptops. (See WAN Optimizers Lap Up Laptops.) Newer players like Expand have fresh funding to help them add other, similar features. (See Expand Gets $21M.)Do any of these vendors need the kind of closeness with Microsoft that Packeteer is touting? The answer depends on a customer's specific requirements. In a market that's expanding as rapidly as the WAN optimization one, there's more room than ever to accommodate variety.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Blue Coat Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BCSI)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Expand Networks Inc.

  • F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV)

  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Packeteer Inc. (Nasdaq: PKTR)

  • Riverbed Technology Inc.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights