Five-year-old XRoads Networks wasn't the youngest vendor in this market, but it is the smallest system we tested. A small vendor can be more responsive, but it might not be able to offer 24\/7 support. Five-year-old XRoads Networks wasn't the youngest vendor in this market, but it is the smallest system we tested. Buying from a small vendor confers its own set of opportunities and risks. The vendor can be more responsive to your needs, but it might not be able to offer 24\/7 support. In XRoads' case, support was next-business-day, and in our tests we had to leave a voice mail message for a technical support person. XRoads sent us two EdgePro 5500e units for evaluation. These appliances optimize WAN links via what XRoads calls adaptive TCP tuning, a technique that accelerates TCP sessions by allowing for larger TCP windows and providing anticipatory TCP acknowledgments.The devices also use data compression to reduce WAN link traffic, and traffic shaping to prioritize it. The EdgePro 5500e units can manage VPN failover by connecting to one of several designated alternate addresses, and they can turn up an alternate VPN when a WAN link fails.The EdgePro 5500e has an application-filtering feature that relies on the unit's traffic shaping, which identifies traffic by application (VoIP vs. Citrix, for example).Additionally, the EdgePro 5500e has a simple network-monitoring capability that, from a traffic-density perspective, can show the top 10 applications and top 10 users. When connected to multiple alternate-path WAN links, the 5500e load balances among the multiple links to keep traffic moving smoothly.WAN OPTIMIZATION EDGEPRO 5500E XRoads Networks3.6Price:$6,000.Pros:Superior optimization of Oracle and e-mail traffic.Cons:Small company; potential support concerns.The breakdownPerformance 30%4Scoring Key: 5: Exceptional4: Very good3: Average2: Below average1: Subpar or not availableProtocol support 20%3Ease of use 20%3Scalability 20%4Documentation\/installation 10%4TOTAL SCORE3.6\u00a0The 5500e can perform best path routing (BPR), multi-WAN load balancing and WAN failover to alternate links when primary connections fail.Through the use of a blacklist, the appliance can filter application content (we found this helpful in filtering music downloads in our tests). The system also can perform rudimentary intrusion detection and prevention, act as a firewall and perform network address translation (NAT).For Oracle application transactions, we saw an average bandwidth-increase factor of 20.5 from the EdgePro 5500e devices. The boxes achieved an average bandwidth-increase factor of 17.2 for e-mail and Web page traffic, and the units managed a respectable average bandwidth-increase factor of 3.1 for Citrix and VoIP datastreams. Designed primarily for regional hubs and small data centers, the 5500e and its other family members (the EdgePro 2500s, EdgePro 3500s and EdgePro 12200e) are quite scalable across just about any size network. An EdgePro 5500e can support WAN speeds as high as 45Mbps and as many as 500 user-based sessions. The 1U rack-mountable device has 512MB of memory, six 10\/100 Ethernet ports and a serial management port.The browser-based EdgePro 5500e interface was easy to navigate. It used clickable tab-labeled windows to show overall system status and traffic statistics (tab Home); configure inbound route redundancy, DNS rules and load balancing (tab EdgeDNS); set up NAT (tab EdgeNAT); establish a firewall (tab EdgeWALL); and configure primary and alternate data paths (EdgeBPR). Separate tabbed windows contained TCP\/IP tools, such as traceroute and ping, and the unit's reports menu. These reports revealed traffic statistics for each WAN link, including latency, packet loss and activity levels that exceeded simple thresholds you can tell the 5500e to watch for.Installation was quick and painless, and XRoads Networks' documentation was easy to follow and of good quality. If you find the 5500e initial configuration to be complicated, you can consult the automated configuration guide on XRoads' Web site. The configuration aid does an excellent job of building a configuration, based on the information you supply.The 5500e is a flexible, good-quality WAN optimization tool that we recommend you look at closely.