Expand's ExpandView management software is worth a look

Expand Networks Inc. is announcing management software to keep track of its acceleration gear and produce reports about overall WAN performance.

Called ExpandView, the platform monitors performance of point-to-point links and of applications running over those links, giving network administrators a tool for determining whether the performance of any particular connection is out of sync with other similar ones.

Expand's Accelerator gear is sold in pairs that sit at either end of a point-to-point WAN link and compress the data, thereby increasing the amount of data per second that can travel across the wire. It also can impose quality-of-service (QoS) policies on applications so those deemed most important get top priority and less important ones are blocked from hogging bandwidth.

With ExpandView, customers can set QoS policies centrally and have them distributed to the Accelerator machines rather than having to configure one Accelerator at a time. The software supports setting up to 64 policies for each box. When customers buy new software licenses that increase the capacity of an Accelerator, ExpandView can also activate those licenses.

The software gives customers knowledge about network traffic similar to the data that can be supplied by traffic shaping gear such as that made by Packeteer, says Peter Christy, an analyst with NetsEdge Research Group."Suddenly the customer discovers what's going on on the line, like bulk e-mail that hurts voice over IP or old Apple Talk that clutter's the line with no productivity," he says.

This type of software is necessary if Expand wants to sell large numbers of their devices to a single customer, he says, because nobody wants to manage hundreds of boxes individually. If customers buy the boxes in bulk and put them on most of their key lines, Expand could conceivably add features, such as caching to reduce WAN traffic, Christy says.

Exhibit Dynamics, a Grand Prairie, Texas, maker of trade show booths, plans to use ExpandView to keep track of traffic on its five-site WAN, says Jim Kinter, the compahy's director if IT. "This will make it much simpler than Telnetting into all those boxes," he says. Plus it will give him a real-time view of network traffic so he can better track congestion. "I can see if someone's using Kazaa or if a three-site video conference is going on."

He says Exhibit Dynamics has a pair of Accelerators and plans to add three more to its fully meshed frame relay network, compressing traffic for all nine possible connections. He says the two devices the company already uses give the throughput of three uncompressed T-1s over a single T-1.

Kinter says he plans to ask his ISP if he can put one at their POP at the end of Exhibit Dynamic's T-1 access line to boost the company's Internet bandwidth. He says that for a price of US$20,000 for the box, he could avoid paying US$1,000 per month for another T-1 and get faster Internet access. The device would pay for itself in less than two years.

ExpandView is in beta tests and will be available in January. It costs US$5,000 for a server that can support up to 500 accelerators. Later versions will support more, Expand says.

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