WAN accelerator breaks the Gig barrier

Silver Peak launches what it claims is the biggest WAN accelerator ever

Silver Peak has launched what it claimed is the biggest WAN accelerator ever - a box able to optimize, de-duplicate, compress and encrypt 1Gbit/s of WAN traffic.

Called the NX-9000, it's also the first accelerator with 10Gbits/s WAN interfaces "to scale for the future," said Silver Peak marketing director Jeff Aaron. It supports up to 4Gbits/s of bidirectional LAN-side traffic and 1Gbit/s of bidirectional WAN traffic, he added.

That's several times faster than the published capacity of competitors such as Riverbed and Juniper. They can handle several hundred Mbits/s when several devices stacked together, or if some acceleration features are turned off. Cisco's WAE 7371 can handle a 1Gbits/s WAN but has less than half the LAN-side capacity of the NX-9000.

Aaron said that the new boxes are aimed at applications such as data center replication, over-the-WAN backup and the like. That's different from the branch office focus of most other WAN optimizers, he claimed.

"The main differences between data center and branch needs are that data center devices are more often deployed out of band, not in-line," he explained. "It means they're a little more complicated to deploy, where branch boxes can be plug & play.

"The data center means more traffic as well, so there's throughput issues, so it needs more disk capacity. The traffic profile is different too, with fewer user applications and more host-to-host applications."

He said the NX-9000 uses the same optimization technology as Silver Peak's earlier systems, but achieves greater throughput by running on far more powerful hardware. Each appliance has dual Xeon quad-core processors, and like the 500Mbit/s NX-8000, which formerly topped the range, it has 8TB of local RAID storage for data de-duplication.

However, a rival supplier questioned Silver Peak's reliance on Intel silicon, and warned that the device could simply shift the bottleneck to the LAN side.

"I am extremely cynical on their ability to handle that traffic without using network processors," said Simon Jackson, Packeteer's director of systems engineering for Europe, adding that Packeteer (which was recently bought by Blue Coat), uses network processors in its 6Gbits/s PacketShaper Turbo flow-shaper.

Several others also use these specialist multi-core chips to offload high-throughput tasks, including Cisco.

Jackson continued: "If it's saturating a Gigabit on the WAN, it's significant - but that could need 20 Gbit/s of real feed."

Jeff Aaron countered that although the NX-9000's LAN-side capacity is just 4Gbit/s, "Scalability is more than just bandwidth - it's also the number of offices and users you can support."

It can optimize up to 256,000 simultaneous flows, meaning it can support many more sessions than its rivals, he said. At perhaps 10 sessions per user, a single NX-9000 in the data center connected to a Gig pipe could support thousands of users working in hundreds of remote offices, he suggested.

The new device is not cheap, however - it lists for US$259,995, which is double the price of the NX-8000.

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Bryan Betts

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