Microsoft, Packeteer pair up for branch-in-a-box

Microsoft and Packeteer have partnered to deliver applications and services to the branch office with the new iShaper appliance.

Microsoft and Packeteer this week paired up to offer a Windows-based branch office box, the Packeteer iShaper.

Combining Packeteer's WAN optimization capabilities and application visibility with Microsoft's Windows Server Internet Security Acceleration (ISA) Server and System Management Server lets users accelerate the delivery and use of Windows-based applications over the WAN and use Windows file, print and Active Directory services.

According to Mark Urban, Packeteer's director of product marketing, iShaper falls in line with recent trends in branch office consolidation, where networking pros seek out multi-purpose boxes instead of building out branch data centers.

iShaper is designed for support of branch offices with 50 or more users, Urban said. It discovers 600 or more applications and protocols and offers real-time visibility and monitoring, which in turn uses that information to optimize applications. Using acceleration tools, CIFS, FTP, TCP and HTTP-based applications can be prioritized and accelerated, while real-time compression can be used for transitional traffic and disk-based byte caching for bulk applications.

iShaper adds high-performance application delivery along with network performance troubleshooting and security services. In addition, secure application QoS ensures that key applications remain available during congested periods and offers Zero Day virus and DDoS attack protection.

On the services side, existing and emerging Microsoft applications services are supported for patch management, networking and printing, using Packeteer's services engine for Microsoft compatibility.

iShaper differentiates itself from the pack in its ability to accelerate priority data traffic while also ensuring that applications such as voice and video don't suffer. It monitors the quality of voice calls to ensure performance and uses traffic-reduction techniques to increase network capacity. For video, iShaper can identify and separate recreational video from business conferencing to ensure that recreational use doesn't detract from business applications, while also monitoring videoconference quality and implementing QoS.

Packeteer's partnership with Microsoft allows iShaper to combine WAN optimization, prioritization and visualization technologies with native Windows services in one box.

Currently, Packeteer's iShared products combine WAFS acceleration and WAN optimization with Microsoft Windows Server and ISA Server for certain branch office services. iShaper, Urban said, adds security-enabled acceleration of applications without the need to deploy several products in the branch office. Packeteer will also license widely deployed Microsoft protocols to develop classification and acceleration technologies for more solutions. Future generations of iShaper will integrate additional ISA Server technology for firewall protection, VPN services and security HTTP acceleration, Urban said.

Bala Kasiviswanathan, director of Windows server branch and storage solutions for Microsoft, said Microsoft's partnership with Packeteer can help IT pros solve some of the pressing challenges they face when dealing with WANs and the branch office.

"How do we make sure the branch can perform with a WAN link down?" he said. "How do we shrink data costs on the WAN?"

Kasiviswanathan added that end users in the branch require seamless access to data, and IT needs methods to manage servers and infrastructure within the branch.

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Scott Erickson, CTO of Maryland-based Erickson Retirement Communities, said iShaper and iShared technology has shown great improvement in the speed at which branch users can access the corporate file share, known as the Y drive. One branch in particular, the construction development office, has great dependency on corporate file share, which houses CAD files, high-resolution photos and a host of other files. From that office, complaints were frequent from end users who said it took too long to retrieve files.

"iShared gives it that LAN-like feel despite being on the WAN," he said.

Erickson said that he no longer has to have a Dell server at branch locations. Being able to boost user response and reduce the overall branch office hardware footprint brings savings, he said, noting that he can eliminate a $7,500 server and the operation and management costs that come with it.

Right now, the network has between 30 and 40 nodes on the WAN, Erickson said, though not all constitute traditional branch offices.

Along with easing the use of the Y drive, iShaper's integration with Microsoft's ISA Server has helped bring HTML compression to branch offices, which comes in handy when many end users work in Siebel.

According to Lucinda Borovick, program director for datacenter networks at IDC, branch offices, like those at Erickson Retirement Communities, are becoming more prevalent and are creeping up among the top networking initiatives for many enterprises.

"IT organizations want to deliver leading-edge server and storage resources to the distributed enterprise while keeping operational and management costs in line," Borovick said. "Unified branch office appliances that include application visibility, security and accelerated delivery of applications will play a major role in meeting the needs of the remote branch."

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