Packeteer is blending the functions of two of its WAN-acceleration devices into a single box, making it possible for users to address network problems that may be slowing site-to-site performance without adding new hardware.The company is upgrading software for its PacketShaper WAN optimization platforms so customers can buy TCP acceleration and Web acceleration as software options. These features had been available only through a separate Packeteer device called SkyX Accelerator.When customers buy new PacketShaper software or upgrade to Version 8.0, they will have the option to buy a license to turn on the TCP and HTTP acceleration, known as Xpress TCP and Xpress HTTP.PacketShaper devices are deployed at both ends of WAN links and use a variety of techniques to move data across the connections more efficiently to reduce congestion and improve application response times. Packeteer competes against other WAN acceleration vendors, including F5 Networks, Juniper, Orbital Data and Riverbed.Each uses a mix of technologies such as QoS, compression, caching and protocol optimization, to speed traffic across WANs without having to buy more bandwidth, says Mattias Machowinski, an analyst with Infonetics. "They all do slightly different things," he says.Xpress TCP software monitors congestion on WAN connections and lets TCP transmissions slow down when congestion warrants it. The software recognizes when the congestion clears and sends acknowledgements locally to ramp TCP back up to full speed more quickly.Xpress HTTP software anticipates what content will be requested next from remote clients and precodes it so the object is ready to go or already sent when the request comes, improving response time of Web applications. This feature also accelerates XML over TCP, Packeteer says.These two acceleration features are options, because they are important when networks suffer high latency and high packet loss, but are not always necessary, Packeteer says.Also new with Version 8.0 is the ability to monitor Real-time Protocol (RTP) traffic, which includes voice and video, giving businesses the ability to verify service-level agreements. The software can measure delay, packet loss and jitter as they affect RTP traffic, and measure performance of real-time classes of MPLS service.To help improve voice and video quality by making packets cross WAN pipes more efficiently, the new software compresses RTP, User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and IP headers on voice and video packets, and packs them into single, super packets so it takes fewer bits to get payloads delivered (see graphic).PacketShaper 8.0 ships with new devices and is an upgrade for current customers with service contracts. The acceleration module that includes Xpress TCP and Xpress HTML ranges from $250 to $10,000, depending on which model of PacketShaper it is licensed for.