Controlling Net Traffic

Allot, Packeteer boost appliances to mitigate rising bandwidth costs and curb performance issues.

When the keepers of Baton Rouge, La.s, municipal network last year found business-critical traffic being impeded, they had a good idea where the problem was.

Eric Romero, project manager for the city, which runs a network serving some 3,000 employees in 20 locations, sensed that unauthorized network use was taxing T-1 access. But despite monthly reports on aggregate use from ISP BellSouth Corp., the city had no way to monitor or control rogue users.

With bandwidth costs rising and performance issues mounting, users such as the city are frequently turning to traffic-shaping specialists to get a handle on the traffic—good and bad—on networks. The city chose an appliance from Allot Communications Ltd. to corral the problem.

Concerns are growing over peer-to-peer and file transfer applications hogging bandwidth meant for latency-intolerant business applications such as voice over IP, videoconferencing and customer relationship management. In response, Allot and rivals such as Packeteer Inc. are boosting their products to appeal to users in the United States and Europe.

Allot is boosting the power of its NetEnforcer network traffic-shaping appliances to address the growing volume and size of e-mail and IP applications, as well as the incessant nuisance of P2P and other unauthorized traffic. Work is in progress to enhance the products reporting capabilities, protocol support and security features, and later this year, Allot will launch a high-end device targeting service provider networks. NetEnforcer has met with different levels of interest among market segments in the United States and Europe, according to Antoine Guy, manager of Europe, Middle East, Africa for Allot, in Sophia Antipolis, France.

In Europe, Allot recently found increased interest in traffic shaping among MTU (multitenant unit) businesses, such as hotels, office parks and exhibition centers, which are beginning to grasp customers broadband needs, Guy said. In the United States, MTU operations several years ago saw advantages in managing virtual pipes to multiple users, and they implemented less advanced traffic management technology to do so. "European hotels are only now starting to evaluate good Internet connections to the room," Guy said. "If youre late, you try to purchase more advanced technology."

Allot has also discovered somewhat greater interest for its Internet management capabilities in Europe and for its intranet management in the United States, Guy said.

However, it was the Internet traffic management capabilities of NetEnforcer that sold Baton Rouge. Once the city installed NetEnforcer, administrators discovered that more than half the traffic flowing over the network was unauthorized, primarily P2P and video streaming. "There was one person tying up so much bandwidth that we limited him to the speed of a dial-up connection. We crushed his access," Romero said. "We never could figure out exactly what he was doing, but he never called us, so we know he was doing something he wasnt supposed to be doing."

Allot recently introduced two entry-level NetEnforcer models geared toward enterprises seeking to include remote sites in companywide policies. The models include an extra Ethernet port, allowing administrators to isolate users from management functions, thus improving security and device performance.

"The demand for remote applications has been increasing," said P.G. Narayanan, CEO of Allot Americas, in Eden Prairie, Minn. "The demand for knowing what is happening at remote sites is increasingly dramatically."

Meanwhile, traffic-shaping veteran Packeteer earlier this month launched the latest version of its PacketShaper Xpress. The Cupertino, Calif., company leveraged compression and Web acceleration expertise it gained with its acquisition of Workfire Technologies International Inc. last year to create a universal traffic acceleration offering.

PacketShaper Xpress combines Layer 7 classification, traffic-shaping and application-intelligent acceleration to help users get the most efficiency out of their expensive WAN links and to ensure that mission-critical applications get the bandwidth they need.

When performance issues arise for applications traversing WAN links, most companies "throw bandwidth at the problem," said Lawrence Orans, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

But with Web surfing and P2P file sharing on the rise and bandwidth costs expected to jump 7 percent a year for the next few years, that solution will likely see much greater resistance, Orans said.

PacketShaper Xpress, a software add-on to PacketShapers bandwidth management tools, saves about two or three times the amount of bandwidth used by uncompressed applications traffic, said Packeteer CEO Dave Cote.

The Xpress option, due next month, will range in price from about $1,000 to $9,000.

PacketShaper user Jason Breslau, technical services manager for Urban Outfitters Inc., in Philadelphia, said the tools make sense for his organization. "Now I dont have to have two boxes here," Breslau said. "The fact that itll compress more than just Web content, including things that are normally uncompressable, like Citrix sessions, is a godsend."