A week after Cisco released its multifunction ACE (Application Control Engine) module, Packeteer will launch on April 17 a new release of software for its PacketShaper appliance that accelerates applications that use TCP and HTTP and boosts the performance and visibility of voice and video over IP.
Though "late to react to developments" in the application acceleration and WAN optimization space, both vendors are playing to their strengths and installed bases in advancing their technologies, said Joe Skorupa, an analyst at Gartner, in Stamford, Conn.
Version 8.0 of the PacketShaper appliances software leverages the visibility PacketShaper provides into how applications use network bandwidth, as well as the granularity of its application-layer quality of service prioritization.
"First you need to know what to control before you try to control it," said PacketShaper user Arun DeSouza, chief information security officer at Inergy Automotive Systems, in Troy, Mich. "Today we can actively prioritize because we can see whats going on."
The HTTP/XML acceleration is key for Inergy as it Web-enables business applications and consolidates remote file servers to a central location.
The Xpress TCP software module streamlines TCP communications by localizing acknowledgment of packets received. The Xpress HTTP/XML acceleration also speeds the connection setup at the application layer and parses through the HTTP code to request objects and sends them before they are requested by the browser client.
In support of VOIP and video traffic over IP, the release adds the ability to measure jitter, delay and packet loss for real-time traffic and provides reporting. Packeteer also added compression for voice and video traffic. Thats also a plus for Inergy. "It is our dream to converge everything on the same network to reduce long-distance tolls," DeSouza said.
Meanwhile, Ciscos ACE, as a first effort to combine multiple acceleration and optimization functions in the same device, may not be ready for prime time for a lot of enterprises, Gartners Skorupa said.
"Its a completely new hardware platform, a completely new software platform," he said. "It cant do more than HTTP load balancing, the security feature set isnt complete and it is at a critical location in the network. If it hiccups, your applications go away. No enterprise should consider deploying it until late 06 or early 07."
Although Cisco removed some barriers to acceptance by making it a module for its Catalyst 6500 switch, and by reducing the administrative overhead required to prepare the infrastructure for deploying new applications, it will require significant testing, said Rob Whiteley, an analyst with Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass.
"Customers will have to spend time in the lab beating this up. Deployments will be streamlined, but we still see pretty aggressive testing required," Whiteley said.
Still, at least one Cisco user testing ACE doesnt see any need to hold back. "Weve tested all the features we need, and we believe its on par with anything out there. It looks solid. Theyre right in the game," said Michael Tardif, vice president and general manager of global hosting services for Savvis, in New York.
Editors Note: This story was updated to correct Arun DeSouzas title.