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Network World - The latest release of Cisco's WAN optimization product line -- Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) 4.4 -- proves that the company famous for routing packets can also shape, optimize and accelerate them.
WAAS provides TCP optimization, data compression, application specific optimization and intelligent caching, all controlled from a single browser-based management console. WAAS comes in a variety of form factors and deployment methods -- a data center appliance, branch office box, virtual WAAS for cloud-ready installations, and a mobile client for Windows operating systems.
For this exclusive Clear Choice test, we deployed a pair of WAVE-294 (Wide Area Virtualization Engine) branch office appliances and a pair of WAVE-8541 data center appliances. We used Cisco's default optimization settings, which include more than 190 predefined acceleration rules.
Our first goal was to verify Cisco's claim that the WAVE-8541 can handle up to 150,000 concurrent connections and not drop any packets or sessions. We created a high-speed network in the lab and cranked up the traffic with a pair of Spirent 3100B Avalanche load generators.
A pair of WAVE-8541s was directly connected via 10Gigabit Ethernet through two Cisco Catalyst 6500 routers on the WAN side. The LAN side was also 10G Ethernet to the Spirent device with a 1 Gigabit backbone for the Central Manager and other devices. We monitored the connection levels both from the Spirent console and via command line from each 8541 appliance.
During the 30-minute test run, the connection count stayed solid at 150,000 connections. CPU utilization on the data center-side WAAS-8541 peaked at approximately 51%, while the branch unit never exceeded 31%. The 8541 scaled to 150,000 without any issues even while the default set of WAN optimization policies were enabled.
Next, we tested Cisco's claim that the WAVE-8541 appliance can handle 2Gbps of optimized WAN throughput. Using the same network setup, we created traffic from four Ubuntu clients running iperf connected to our Gigabit LAN. The traffic generated by iperf was a mix of 50/50 compressible and uncompressible data. With all four clients active, the LAN side reported approximately 3.96Gbps of traffic and the WAN side peaked at 1.97Gbps. That represents some of the best performance we've seen based on previous testing of WAN optimization gear.
In the past, Cisco's cache engine on the data center device was segmented - each branch was assigned a specific portion of the data center appliance's cache and it could not be shared with other WAAS appliances. This meant that even though a particular block of data had already gone through the data center to one location, other offices couldn't take advantage of this information.
Cisco's new context-aware DRE (Data Reduction Engine) does away with the segmented cache, opting for a single large unified cache that all appliances can participate in.
Cisco's DRE adapts to changing conditions in traffic and applications. For most everyday traffic, HTTP, CIFS, NFS, MAPI, etc., the cache operates in a bi-directional mode. Signatures and byte segments are located at both ends of the connection and help reduce overall WAN traffic regardless of direction.