The bustling WAN optimization market shows no sign of slowing down, and Juniper Networks Inc. is capitalizing on that popularity by launching the WXC 590 WAN application acceleration platform and a new version of the WX operating and central management systems.
The WX and WXC WAN acceleration platforms are designed to speed applications across the WAN between data centers and branch offices, boosting response times for distant users who rely on files and services in the home data center. The WX framework, on which the platforms are built, uses memory-based compression, disk-based caching, TCP and application-specific acceleration, quality-of-service measures, bandwidth management and path optimization, and visibility and reporting tools.
According to Mike Banic, senior director of product marketing at Juniper, the WXC 590 platform eases data center consolidation, Web enablement of applications, data replication and backup, implementation of high-availability architectures and regulatory compliance.
To speed application performance, the WXC 590 platform can be deployed in a stack configuration that can be licensed up to 155 Mbps and support up to 840 sites. It can run on OC-3 links in a 30-client stack configuration supporting up to 420 remote sites, and as a single platform for 45 Mbps links supporting 140 sites.
For the last year or so, Houston-based Mustang Engineering LP has run the WXC platform from its headquarters to its remote sites throughout the U.S. and a few international locations. The engineering firm first looked at WAN optimization when one remote office was struggling with poor performance and slow response time while trying to access files and services housed in the Houston data center.
Remote users were having trouble accessing large, computer-aided drafting drawings, said Keith Wingate, Mustang Engineering's network administrator. That site was limited to an Internet pipe from headquarters and also had a VPN connection and encryption. When that all added up, capacity became a problem. That problem was reflected in network performance.
"If it takes two to three minutes to open a file and they're opening several files per day, that can be a big hindrance," he said.
While the official numbers haven't been crunched, Wingate said the file transfer time was chopped to about 15 seconds per file, an obvious productivity boost. Mustang Engineering selected Juniper after a rigorous head-to-head comparison with other WAN optimization vendors.
The success of the first WXC deployment, Wingate said, prompted Mustang Engineering to include the WXC as part of its remote office technology package, meaning it is deployed now in each.
"We're not really concerned with the exact numbers," he said. "What we care about is that the end users are happy. The less my phone rings, the better."
While Wingate admits installing the WXC "takes a skilled hand," he said it gets easier over time. He said handing the duplexing and making sure the boxes are tuned to the correct settings takes some time, but "once you get all of those bugs worked out, it's pretty hands off."
The latest version of the WX operating system software, version 5.4, adds a disk warming feature that enables its existing Network Sequence Caching feature to be directionally independent, meaning that as long as the WXC platform recognizes a pattern on either direction of a link it will achieve maximum compression when the pattern is seen on the return path. Version 5.4 also adds support for Samba servers, allowing application-specific acceleration to the open source version of the Microsoft Common Internet File Services protocol, Juniper's Banic said.
The new WXC 590 comes with dual swappable power supplies and hard drives, as well as swappable fan trays. Version 5.4 of the operating system has complete multicast and Layer 2 support for the Web Cache Control Protocol, allowing several WX and WXC platforms to be load-balanced.
Lastly, the WX Central Management System (CMS) was also updated to version 5.4. The CMS lets IT centrally manage, configure and monitor dispersed WX and WXC platforms, giving more visibility into the WAN. CMS 5.4 has a new event management console and matrix that provides a summary of error conditions and system and performance events for multiple platforms. A new email gateway feature lets network administrators configure email alerts based on predetermined events and business policies. The operating system also shows flow diagnostics and per-flow statistics for traffic analysis, Banic said.