One size fits all for WAN acceleration, claims Expand

Branch office WAN appliance is licence-keyed for growth

Replacing different-capacity WAN accelerators with a standard-sized but software-limited box can cut costs and reduce upgrade woes, Expand Networks has claimed.

The company has deleted its entry-level branch office Accelerator 1800 appliance, replacing it with a software-limited version of its midrange Compass Accelerator, which costs 25 percent less than the entry-level box it replaced.

The ability to offer higher-spec hardware at a lower price is down to two factors - economies of scale, and the ability to limit the device's bandwidth via software, said Adam Davidson, Expand's VP Europe. Different software licences allow the diskless Compass Accelerator 4830 and the disk-equipped 4930 to scale from 128kbit/s to 6Mbit/s, he claimed.

Expand said that where the Accelerator 1800 had been £1925 (US$3,850), the 4830 would cost from £1485 to £10,175, depending on bandwidth. The company said that it would now include WAFS file-caching software for free, instead of charging extra for it.

The ability to unlock more bandwidth using software keys enables one appliance to cover the same ground as several rival devices, Davidson argued. For example, instead of needing a hardware upgrade - from a 256kbit/s Riverbed Steelhead 50 to a 2Mbit/s Steelhead 300, say, or from a 2Mbit/s Juniper WXC 250 to an 8Mbit/s WXC 2600 - an Expand user would only need a new software licence.

He added that the new licences could be deployed via Expand's centralized management system too, avoiding the need to visit each branch office to do the upgrade.

"It's not just pricing, it's about scalability," he said. "People are doing global deployments now, and the last thing they want is for a device to hit a hardware limit and require a forklift upgrade.

"The product range is simpler too - there's just one product now for the majority of branches. It's about removing complexity in a maturing market."

Apurva Davé, Riverbed's product marketing director, contended that Riverbed has offered software upgrades for a couple of years now. A Steelhead 100, capable of optimizing 1Mbit/s and 25 TCP connections, can be upgraded to a 2Mbit/s and 165-connection Steelhead 300, for example.

"Riverbed offers a broader range of hardware platforms specifically because our customers asked for them," he added. "And be sure to look at all the statistics - you'd need 25 or more Expand 4830s to match the scalability of just one Steelhead branch office appliance in terms of number of connected peers."

Adam Davidson insisted though that offering a simpler range of hardware can make life simpler for customers too.

He said that Expand has also rationalized its larger models, and can now handle any bandwidth from 128kbit/s to 45Mbit/s with just three basic hardware platforms, scaling them to fit the customer's requirements via software.

All three are also available with or without hard disks, making six platforms in total, Davidson said. He noted that Expand continues to offer diskless models as it has a number of government and military customers who insist on them for security reasons.

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