Juniper has laid out an 18-month roadmap that includes improving the capabilities, capacity and management support of its WAN acceleration gear while offering custom acceleration for more individual applications.
Once carried out, the roadmap will bring Juniper’s gear more in line with products from other vendors, notably Riverbed, which also makes devices that improve WAN response times through a variety of means, says Rob Whiteley, an analyst with Forrester Research.
Blue Coat, Cisco, Citrix, Expand Networks, F5 Networks, Packeteer and others also compete in this area, and are constantly adding features to develop a full set of application-visibility, acceleration and compression features, he says.
Juniper’s WAN acceleration family includes the DX, WX and WCX devices. The DX is a one-end acceleration unit that sits in front of datacentres and requires no special equipment at the other end of the connection. It terminates SSL sessions, performs HTTP compression and protects servers from denial-of-service attacks as well as SYN floods.
The WX appliances sit at both ends of corporate WAN links and, through a variety of compression and optimisation techniques, squeezes more data across the connections. Juniper plans to add web caching, accelerating SSL-encrypted traffic and enforcing what were DX-based, datacentre-only rules at branch offices. It also plans to add a WX software agent that pushes compression algorithms to remote-access PCs.
WXC devices add data-sequence caching to the WX technology, making it possible to deliver large chunks of data from a local WXC cache rather than calling it from servers at the other end of a WAN connection. The WXC will also receive the WX improvements.
All the boxes are managed by WX CMS, software that monitors WAN performance by application and produces reports by site, device and link. CMS upgrades will make it possible to create new reports, such as how much the gear accelerates individual applications. It also will enable assigning specific management roles to specific individuals and limiting those roles to certain devices on the network.
So, a department administrator might have access to read performance reports and choose to adjust settings for devices serving his department but not others. A corporate administrator could have overlapping access, plus access to all the other Juniper WAN acceleration gear in the corporate network.
These acceleration devices can pay for themselves quite rapidly, according to Robert Bell, director of IT for Michigan-based architectural and engineering firm Ghafari Companies, which has offices in Illinois and Indiana. He says installing three WXC boxes at these sites improved WAN performance enough to avoid having to upgrade T-1s to T-3s, which would have boosted monthly WAN costs five to eight times, depending on the connection. Because of this, the Juniper devices installed last year paid for themselves in eight months, he says.
One improvement on Juniper’s road map that Bell looks forward to is a WX software agent that can be downloaded to an individual PC that enables it to compress traffic. The agent is pushed via a Juniper SSL VPN gateway, and Ghafari already has one. So, a person using the VPN to access a file would download the WX agent at login and get faster transactions because traffic would be compressed in both directions, he says. Competitor Orbital Data has this, and Riverbed and NetScaler are said to be working on something similar.
Bell says he is also looking forward to Juniper accelerating more individual types of applications, as it already does with Common Internet File System and Exchange. In particular, a planned upgrade to accelerating SQL traffic will help speed up slow accounting transactions carried out between headquarters and the branch offices.
Tools to monitor traffic better and report on performance will also be welcome, he says. This will eliminate the need for separate performance monitoring and shaping gear, Forrester’s Whiteley says. “You turn on its reporting and it reduces the need for having a box like Packeteer’s sitting on the WAN edge. It simplifies the architecture,” he says.
Juniper’s plans also call for making it possible to accelerate SSL between WX devices by compressing packets, then encrypting them with SSL before they cross the WAN. Previously, the devices could not open SSL traffic, so could not determine whether it could be compressed or otherwise optimised. Blue Coat and Certeon also do this, but they lack other features of Juniper gear, says Joel Conover, an analyst with Current Analysis.
Juniper promises to boost the speed of WAN links it can support to 155Mbit/s or OC-3. Other vendors such as Silver Peak offer faster speeds than Juniper now has, Conover says, so this will bring the company back in line with competitors.
Overall, the Juniper roadmap foretells better integration of technologies it acquired over the past few years, Whiteley says.