Evaluating Silver Peak Systems for WAN optimization

Silver Peak Systems' WAN optimization product line addresses problems typically seen in the data center, including accelerating data backup, server and storage centralization, and real-time collaboration and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

Silver Peak's WAN optimization product line is the NX Series of appliances. Most of the focus of the NX series

is on data-center-class WAN optimization to address problem areas including:

  • Data backup and recovery
  • Data center consolidation
  • Server and storage centralization
  • Real-time collaboration and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

According to Silver Peak, its solutions provide benefits to all IP applications, including TCP and non-TCP applications, as well as bulk file transfer and real-time applications. This is interesting because most WAN optimization controllers (WOCs) do not optimize non-TCP applications. Silver Peak claims that its solutions scale to significantly higher bandwidth and flow counts than competitive solutions do. Silver Peak also says its solutions uniquely solve WAN quality issues by supporting technologies such as adaptive forward error correction (FEC) and real-time packet order correction (POC).

One of Silver Peak's strategic partnerships is with EMC. According to the company, "Silver Peak was added to EMC Select in February 2008, and quickly became the fastest growing Select partner in EMC's history. Silver Peak is the only WAN optimization solution qualified by EMC for both TCP and non-TCP replication applications, including SRDF, Celerra, Mirrorview, EDL -- in both Gigabit Ethernet and FCIP environments. Silver Peak is also the only WAN optimization vendor qualified with EMC's new V-Max platform."

Important facts about Silver Peak Systems WAN optimization

Silver Peak provides quality of service (QoS) and traffic shaping functionality that includes application classification, policy enforcement, and packet tagging and/or marking.

Silver Peak implements disk-based compression on all appliances using a variety of standard compression techniques, including cross-flow payload compression techniques based on Lempel-Ziv (LZ) algorithms. Disk-based deduplication is also implemented on all appliances. A unique characteristic of the Silver Peak implementation of deduplication is its use of Network Memory. As packets flow through the NX appliances, Network Memory technology examines the information and stores it as a local copy (or instance) in disk drives located on the appliances. As new packets arrive at an NX appliance, Network Memory computes fingerprints of the data contained within the packets and checks to see whether these fingerprints match data that is stored in the local instance of the NX appliance at the destination location. If the remote NX appliance contains the information, there is no need to resend it over the WAN. Instead, specific retrieve instructions are sent to deliver the data locally.

Silver Peak offers a variety of TCP acceleration techniques, including window scaling, selective acknowledgement, and High Speed TCP (HS-TCP). NX appliances also perform a variety of generic protocol optimization techniques consisting of header compression, packet coalescing, FEC and POC.

Silver Peak differentiates itself in the area of application-specific optimization. The company believes that relying on modifications to specific applications delivers "modest, short-lived gains while creating possible application incompatibilities and increased management complexity." As a result, it takes the approach that the best way to ensure significant performance improvements across a wide range of applications, and across different versions of the same application, is to optimize the network and transport layers.

However, Silver Peak uses the Common Internet File System (CIFS) as an example of how it has implemented more specific acceleration techniques for "particularly painful, broadly deployed protocols when the protocol optimizations offer substantial incremental performance benefit." Silver Peak's CIFS optimization techniques include CIFS read-ahead, CIFS write-behind and CIFS meta data optimizations.

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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