Swan Revamps WAN/WAFS Kit

New techniques improve throughput, add security, and open up third-party integration. But it'll cost

July 26, 2005

3 Min Read
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Swan Labs Corp. has taken the next step in its evolution -- and upped the ante against a key rival (see Swan Labs Improves Appliance).

Swan Labs has revamped its WAN optimization appliance, releasing WANJet, a replacement for its Netcelera device introduced late in 2004. WANJet substantially improves Netcelera's application throughput on IP networks. For instance, the vendor claims the addition of new data reduction techniques improves file transfers by 500 times normal throughput, compared with 10 times normal throughput claimed for the older Netcelera product. WANJet also features encryption and a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) for third-party use.

The announcement pits Swan Labs more closely against the likes of Riverbed Technology Inc., which announced a new version of its Steelhead optimization appliance last week (see Riverbed Fords WAN/WAFS Divide). Both companies are part of a trend toward combining the bandwidth-scrunching features of WAN optimizers with the ability to eliminate chattiness characteristic of wide-area file services (WAFS) applications on IP networks (see Remote Site Rapprochement).

Riverbed is ahead of Swan Labs at this point in terms of customers, claiming 200 to Swan Labs' 80. Yet features of the two firms' devices are strikingly similar: Both support data reduction and TCP optimization. Both work with line speeds up to 622 Mbit/s (OC12). And both now offer encryption, though Swan Labs' is based on SSL and Riverbed's on IPSec.

There are differences. Swan Labs' emphasis on its API reflects its focus on what VP of marketing Tom Tansy calls "cherry-picked partnerships." IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has adapted its technology for Web acceleration, as part of the IBM WebSphere product series. Plumtree Software Inc., which makes Web-based application portals, also OEMs Swan Labs. [Ed. note: Was Plumtree cherry-picked?]Swan Labs also has its eye on advancing into other kinds of networking gear. Tansy says WANJet has new features that can dynamically identify voice-over-IP ports and combine those with services like replication, iSCSI support, file transfer, backup, and Web acceleration.

Riverbed, in contrast, isn't banking on the third-party route. "Writing to APIs to maximize acceleration always sounds really good. The problem is actually getting third parties to write to the APIs," says Eric Wolford, senior VP of marketing and business development at Riverbed.

At the same time, though, Riverbed has a signficant OEM deal with Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), which has incorporated Steelhead technology in its new storage lineup (see HP in Deal With Riverbed, Sources Say). This hints that Riverbed is open to its own cherry-picked partners.

Swan Labs is also pricing its wares on a broader scale than Riverbed. Pricing will range from $1,895 for a 64-kbit/s appliance to $100,000 for a model supporting 622 Mbit/s. Riverbed's top price is $45,000.

Ultimately, the differences between Swan Labs and Riverbed will continue to play out as they develop more market presence. Meanwhile, their struggle for identify is reflected throughout the market segment, which is a pastiche of startups looking at different aspects of optimization. The fact that several of them have been acquired in recent months testifies to the value of what they're doing for all kinds of IP networks, including storage ones (see Cisco Chomps FineGround and Brocade Invests in Tacit). Riverbed and/or Swan Labs could see a similar future.Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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