Evaluating Juniper application acceleration

Juniper application acceleration products include the WXC Series of WAN optimization controllers, which has hardware and software models, a Windows client, and a router-based branch office controller.

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Juniper Networks' heritage is as a provider of networking equipment, primarily to service providers. Its primary acceleration products are the WXC Series WAN optimization controllers, including:

Juniper's WXC application acceleration controllers were first launched under the name Sequence Mirror by Peribit Networks. Juniper acquired Peribit in July 2005. For a few years, Juniper deployed the optimization products in a standalone fashion, with little if any integration with the rest of the Juniper product line. That approach is changing. For example, Juniper states that one of its advantages in the market is the fact that it provides an integrated, secure branch office solution. That solution includes the WXC Integrated Services Module (WXC ISM 200) running on Juniper's J-Series Router. Juniper has also stated that it will soon introduce WAN optimization functionality into its SRX access router family.

Juniper's changing approach to the market also shows in the recently announced Junos Pulse. This is Juniper's integrated WAN optimization, VPN and unified access control client.

Important facts about Juniper application acceleration

Juniper's WXC controllers provide quality of service (QoS) capabilities, including class of service (CoS), which are integrated with the WXC Series' compression and sequence caching capabilities. Juniper couples its QoS capabilities with dynamic feedback to control the available bandwidth across the WAN and with functionality that identifies how compressible the data is. The WXC QoS also integrates with external QoS techniques. For example, WXC controllers can perform queuing based on previously marked type of service (ToS) or Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) settings, mark or re-mark the ToS or DSCP bits for different classes of traffic for an upstream device, preserve previous traffic markings by copying the marking to the reduction tunnel header, and optionally restore ToS or DSCP settings at the far side of the WAN connection.

The WXC controllers support bandwidth guarantees by application class. An IT organization can assign applications to one of 16 application classes and then establish prioritization levels and set minimum and maximum bandwidth percentages for each. Once guarantees have been met, the organization can allocate any excess bandwidth to applications either proportionally or via strict priority. The WXC can differentiate up to 256 different IP applications based on information found at layers 3, 4 or 7. For ease of use, 52 applications are predefined, including Common Internet File System (CIFS), DNS, Exchange, HTTP and SAP.

Juniper bases its compression on technology that it calls Molecular Sequence Reduction (MSR). MSR implements multiple reduction algorithms in serial. It first compresses the header and then the rest of the packet. In addition, packets of the same traffic class and destined for the same location are combined into a single large packet for greater efficiency. Juniper claims that WXC controllers support memory and disk-based compression output "at rates ranging from Kbps to 155 Mbps and beyond."

Juniper refers to its caching as network sequence caching. It operates at the TCP rather than the application layer, and it stores data patterns on hard drives. Juniper claims that sequence caching delivers the same benefits as file caching without being specific to an application or file structure or requiring an exact file match.

Similar to Silver Peak's NX appliance, Juniper's WXC controllers optimize any IP-based protocol regardless of transport protocol. The WXC also optimizes specific protocols, which include TCP, CIFS, Messaging Application Program Interface (MAPI), HTTP, and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL -- HTTPS, LDAPS, FTPS, etc.).

According to Juniper, the WXC Series also contains Packet Flow Acceleration (PFA) technology. PFA supports three specific optimization techniques:

  • Fast connection setup: This optimizes TCP sessions and improves the performance of TCP-based applications by eliminating one round-trip time (RTT) from the TCP connection setup process.
  • Active flow pipelining: This terminates TCP connections locally to manipulate the TCP window protocol and substitute a more efficient transport protocol between WXC Series appliances.
  • Forward error correction (FEC): This limits the need for retransmissions on high-loss networks such as international IP VPNs, Internet-based VPNs or satellite links by sending recovery packets alongside data packets, indexing them to allow for transparent reconstruction of lost packets.

Combined with generic optimization and TCP acceleration, higher-layer protocol optimizations are delivered by the Application Flow Acceleration (AppFlow) technologies that accelerate CIFS, MAPI, HTTP and SSL.

For more, read all the sections in our guide:

About the author:
Dr. Jim Metzler, principal at Ashton Metzler and Associates, is a widely recognized authority on network technology and its business applications. In more than 28 years of experience, Jim has helped numerous vendors refine product and service strategies and has helped enterprises evolve network infrastructures. He has directed and conducted market research at a major industry analyst firm and run a consulting firm. Jim holds a Ph.D. in numerical analysis from Boston University. He is co-author of the book Layer 3 Switching: A Guide for IT Professionals (Prentice Hall).

This was first published in February 2010

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