A battle is looming over Wan optimisation as Packeteer adds compression software to its products and claims a 10-fold increase in bandwidth.
The software, added to its PacketShaper management devices, puts the company head to head with Cisco System's router compression and with Wan traffic management specialists such as Peribit Networks and Expand Networks.
The CNA compression algorithms will, in reality, only provide a gain of 30% to 50%, said Packeteer's European marketing director Roger Hockaday.
"Compression solutions in isolation are simply throwing bandwidth at the problem of application performance," Hockaday said.
"Business applications such as CRM and ERP are very well behaved, it's applications such as database replication, e-mail, FTP or even internet radio which typically use as much bandwidth as they can."
PacketShaper allows bandwidth to be allocated to specific applications, for example to prevent web browsing from hogging capacity required by more important software such as SAP or Oracle.
"Packeteer is playing catch-up in the broader Wan optimisation category," said Steve Wastie, Peribit's international marketing director. He argued that bandwidth allocation is too blunt a tool by comparison with prioritising the application traffic on the network.
Quality of service (QoS) is not enough on its own - you also need to increase bandwidth, decrease latency, and make it all simple to install and manage, he added.
"Packeteer has been very focused on QoS," he said. "But QoS on its own is a zero-sum game. For example, if you prioritise one app then another will lose out, and it can become incredibly complex."
However, Hockaday said that compression and packet shaping are natural bedfellows.
"Our point is that if you contain applications which consume bandwidth and then compress traffic when necessary, you ensure that the additional bandwidth goes to the applications you want it to, not just the greedy ones."
The Benelux division of pharmaceutical giant Schering has saved around 60% on bandwidth costs since deploying a Packeteer system with compression.
"Packeteer's application traffic management let us know what was running on our network, helps us avoid bandwidth costs by compressing traffic, and lets us ensure that each of our mission-critical applications gets the bandwidth it needs," said Sander Grout, a Schering network engineer. "It's the single best network investment we've made."
Bryan Betts writes for TechWorld.com