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Executive Editor

Expand overhauls compression line

Apr 19, 20043 mins

Expand Networks is introducing a set of software plug-ins and other upgrades to the operating software for its acceleration devices to further speed site-to-site corporate WAN traffic.

Expand Networks is introducing a set of software plug-ins and other upgrades to the operating software for its acceleration devices to further speed site-to-site corporate WAN traffic.

New software modules for the company’s Accelerator appliances reduce the amount of traffic that specific applications must send across congested WAN links, making the applications perform faster – two to four times faster, the company says.

These capabilities are in addition to what the devices already did: compress traffic. Customers buy Expand devices in pairs and place one at each end of a WAN link, between the LANs and the WAN routers. The Accelerators compress traffic bound for the second location, Expand says. The company competes against Peribit, ITWorx, Packeteer and FatPipe and newcomer Riverbed.

The new Acceleration Plug-Ins reduce traffic for specific protocols that commonly run over WANs: HTTP, Secure-HTTP, DNS, FTP and TCP. Most of these include caching repetitive elements of the traffic so it is served up locally by the Expand box rather than drawn from a server across the WAN connection. The plug-ins are part of the operating system upgrade. The upgrade also supports Layer 7 quality of service (QoS) so the devices, for example, can distinguish individual Web applications, whereas before all Web traffic was treated equally.

This Layer 7 QoS will let Eagle Global Logistics give its universal Web-based shipping software priority over other Web traffic, says Daniel Gonik, senior network engineer for the international freight company. The company grew through the acquisition of other companies, each of which used its own shipping software. Standardizing on a new Web-based application last fall meant greater demand on network links between about 50 international locations and data centers in Houston, London and Singapore, Gonik says. Layer 7 QoS distinguishes the shipping application from, say, Web browsing so business is transacted faster, and browsing takes a back seat.

Installing Expand gear also avoided the need to add bandwidth on Eagle Global’s WAN, and in some cases the devices enabled the reduction of bandwidth from 256K to 64K bit/sec, he says. Either via cost savings or cost avoidance, the Expand Accelerators are saving Eagle Global about $1 million per year, and individual pairs of the appliances have paid for themselves within a month, he says.

Gonik says new support for Open Shortest Path First routing in Expand’s operating software will let Expand boxes swap routing information and, if one fails, find an alternate route to reach one of the data centers.

Previously, the boxes supported only static routes that required human intervention if an appliance failed, he says. The software upgrade also compresses traffic without masking Multi-protocol Layer Switching markers on packets so customers can reduce traffic on MPLS VPNs.

Expand also is introducing three hardware devices. Two are beefed-up versions of earlier devices. The first is the 4020, which has 4M bit/sec throughput for $5,500, twice the speed for half the price of the older 4002. The second, due out in June, is called 6840, which can support up to 350 sites, 250 more than the previous 6810 at the same price of $25,000.

The 6810 gives Expand a device to compete with Peribit’s largest devices, says Peter Firstbrook, a senior research analyst at Meta Group.

Expand also is introducing a Secure Sockets Layer acceleration device that offloads SSL connections from servers and compresses traffic before it is sent over WAN links. Called HTTPS Accelerator, the base model costs $29,000. This device puts Expand in competition with FineGround, NetScaler and Redline Networks, Firstbrook says.