WAN acceleration for remote workers

The deluge of WAN accelerators from Cisco, Riverbed, Juniper, Expand, Packeteer,Bluecoat, Silverpeak etc. etc. is proving good for datacenters. Not sure how many vendors will remain viable in a year or two, but the selection at the moment is decent.

However, most of the vendors don’t address remote desktop acceleration, say for people using 3G cards on their laptops or even cable modems – sometimes the routing to corporate networks can be arcane enough that the ms of latency add up, plus most home connections are asymmetrical anyway.

So, it would be pretty cool to have a WAN accelerator in your laptop, right? Well, so far only two companies have stepped forward:

The far more established product, even if you’ve never heard of it, is AcceleNet Enterprise from ICT (Intelligent Compression Technologies, www.ictcompress.com – they were recently bought by ViaSat). ICT has been doing just this for years, with a veritable who is who of clients (no they haven’t paid me to say this, I just think the stuff is cool). Lots of service providers use it.

ICT deploys a server that acts as a proxy, then you install an agent on your laptop. Transfers are compressed both ways.

The other vendor is known to us all – it’s Riverbed. They have now what’s called Steelhead Mobile. Effectively, it puts a Riverbed box inside your laptop. A normal Steelhead is needed to communicate with, as well as a Steelhead Mobile Controller for management. I saw pricing for the controller and it was a bit dear…

You can even adjust how much cache to give your mini-Riverbed, so if you have the space, go nuts.

Of course, you can also use this technology for servers and save money on appliance costs – I wonder if they have something that checks if you’ve installed it on a server OS, and how much CPU does it take to do it’s thing.

I heard somewhere Cisco is also working on something similar, unsurprisingly.


7 Replies to “WAN acceleration for remote workers”

  1. As an engineer that works for a Cisco partner that is also partnered with Riverbed, I can say that the Riverbed Steelhead mobile solution is slick. It really helps those customers that may have very small remote locations that can’t spend $9k to $12k for 5 users. Even though Riverbed is already the best of breed WAN optimization and application acceleration solution they are making it even more difficult for their competitors to gain ground on them with the mobile client.

    They are all “working” on chasing Riverbed. Like all the carriers are “working” on an iPhone knock off. Unfortunately, for most of the competitors they have built their solution via acquisition of multiple companies to formulate one all in one solution. This usually creates a product that is very inefficient and takes a lot of time to work out all the kinks.

    I have a lot of comparison data on all the competitors if anyone is interested.

    Hope this helps!

    Justin Lofton
    Systems Engineer
    Tredent Data Systems, Inc.

  2. Hi “D”,

    I asked the same questions you did, and the answers are:

    No, you can’t install Steelhead Mobile on a server OS and

    Steelhead mobile is not quite a Steelhead, as it will only optimize outbound connections from the PC it is running on, so we can’t even cheat and make a WinXP file server.

    On the nice side, compared to the appliances, there is no limitation on number of connections or the outbound bandwidth for Steelhead Mobile.

    Same disclaimer as last: I work for a Riverbed distributor.


  3. What’s the benefit of optimizing outbound connections only?

    Unless you mean connections initiated by the client (typically the XP box running Steelhead Mobile). In which case it will accelerate everything as long as the client initiate the connection.

  4. Hi Dimitris,

    There is not benefit at all for the user. The point was that if you want to optimize inbound sessions, you can’t use Steelhead Mobile, but have to use an appliance.

    And yes, by outbound, i mean sessions initiated from the OS that SHM is running on.


  5. Hi Dimitris,

    It seems that you don’t know Ipanema Technologies which fastly becomes a leader in application traffic management. Ipanema is today the solution of choice to globally manage application performance on large and complex networks and also for service providers and telcos to develop application based managed services.

    You should attend our upcoming webcast with Dr Jim Metzler on Feb. 5, 2009 at 11:00 am NY, to know more about “How Slashing costs while Maintaining Excellent Application Performance with Ipanema’s application traffic management solutions.”


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