Citrix systems is looking to help turn the trickle of WAN optimization clients for individual PCs and laptops into a torrent.
To date only a handful of smaller, less well-known players in the fast-growing application acceleration space have made available client implementations of their technology to speed the performance of applications accessed remotely over slower-speed links.
At the Interop show in Las Vegas May 21, Citrix will roll out its new WANScaler Client. Citrixs product will join application acceleration clients from Packeteer through its Tacit Networks acquisition, Blue Coat Systems, tiny Stampede Technologies and Intelligent Compression Technologies, acquired earlier this year by satellite communications company ViaSat.
Citrix also will get a jump on rivals Riverbed Technology and Juniper Networks, which plan to release their first clients in the second half of the year.
Despite the dearth of offerings, market demand is strong, said Rob Whiteley, an analyst with Forrester Research.
"This is one of the first technologies Ive seen where demand is outstripping supply," he said. "Everyone asks how to accelerate users not in a branch office. Now we can accelerate the heck out of applications going into branches, but remote users who need it the most are left behind. Theres a big pent-up demand for it."
"We estimate up to 90 percent of corporate users will access applications while out of the office at some point during the course of their work week or month, either at home or from the road. So WAN optimization has to advance to work at all locations," said Greg Smith, director of product marketing for Citrix, in Santa Clara, Calif.
What could be holding back supply is the difficulty involved in creating a Windows-based client thats secure, reliable and efficient from appliance code written in Linux, said Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa.
"Its a significant effort to get it right and working with multiple versions of Windows, whether its Windows XP, Windows 2003 [or] Vista, but also Windows mobile and Symbian environments and mobile varieties of Linux," Skorupa said. But, he said, "its going to be table stakes to play in this market."
Citrix customer Rob Rice, director of network and security operations at NCsoft, an online gaming publisher in Austin, Texas, plans to beta test the new client. He said he hopes to be able to offer it to at least "a couple hundred people in our organization globally."
The WANScaler Client for Windows provides multi-level compression and protocol optimization for HTTP, CIFS (Common Internet File System), NFS (Network File System) Version 3 and FTP.
It will also accelerate that traffic securely by working with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and IP Security VPNs. Although it will initially work with Citrixs Access Gateway SSL VPN, the company will validate interoperability with other vendors VPNs throughout the rest of the year, Smith said.
"We think there are two business requirements here—how to provide better performance to remote users and how to maintain system security and data protection," he said.
Interoperability with NCsofts VPN technology is a concern for Rice. "We want to use this over our existing VPN that weve already standardized on and invested in," he said.
The client, which can require 30MB to "several" gigabytes in the PC or laptop, can be customized by IT administrators according to the individuals application access requirements, Smith said.
The self-installed client package can be centrally managed and monitored.
Citrix also enhanced the WANScaler appliance with a new software release, called WANScaler Version 4, that allows customers to set QOS (quality of service) priorities for different classes of traffic.
Users can ensure that more latency-sensitive traffic, such as Citrix Independent Computing Architecture-based thin-client applications, can get through even when a link is congested.
WANScaler 4 includes more interface options, including support for dual-home networks with more than one WAN link. In addition, the new version provides enhanced reporting.
The WANScaler Client will range from $50 to $170 per user, depending on the size of the deployment.
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