Cisco Systems WAAS Mobile 3.4 review

Offering a software-only WAN optimisation solution for mobile workers is cost effective and flexible, but can it compete with appliance-based products for performance?

For performance testing we used the lab's resident Network Nightmare WAN simulator and configured it for a 1Mbps WAN link with 40ms latency. We placed Windows Vista clients on one side of the WAN simulator to represent remote users and on the LAN side we deployed the WAAS server to a Windows Server 2003 R2 system. This was running file sharing, FTP, web and mail services with the latter coming courtesy of Kerio's MailServer software. We opted for a standalone server as Windows domain controllers have SMB signing switched on by default and experience has shown that this can have a significant impact on file transfer performance.

To test optimisation we used a 4.9MB Powerpoint presentation, which we copied and emailed to and from the test server, opened remotely on the client and saved a modification and used FTP to transfer it as well. These tests were run twice once with the WAAS Mobile client disabled and then with it turned on.

On the first run, remotely opening the file with PowerPoint 2007 took 63 seconds and saving a small modification to the server took 56 seconds. With the client enabled and the file cached these times were reduced to only 10 and 9 seconds respectively. Mailing the file as an attachment to the server took 187 seconds whilst sending the same file back to the client took 60 seconds. With the Mobile client in action these times were reduced to only 5 seconds and 11 seconds.

Simple file copy operations saw huge improvements with the presentation copied from client to server and back again in 46 and 45 seconds and only two seconds in both directions with the client activated. FTP operations were similarly affected as the FileZilla client utility copied the test file to and from the server in 42 and 44 seconds and with optimisation on the case both operations were reduced to less than two seconds.

Cisco's WAAS Mobile looks an ideal choice for businesses that want their mobile and remote workers to enjoy LAN like performance but don't want to be locked in to proprietary appliance based solutions. It looks particularly good value as many standard features provided in WAAS Mobile other vendors only offer as options and Cisco's client licensing scheme means it can be upgraded as required as well.

We found both the server and client components extremely easy to install and deploy, the management facilities particularly good and the results from our WAN acceleration performance tests show it is just as fast as many more costly hardware solutions.

Verdict

There are surprisingly few WAN optimisation products on the market that specifically target mobile and remote workers and many still rely on having an appliance at the head office, which can hike the price up considerably. Cisco’s WAAS Mobile does away with any hardware dependencies as you pick your own server platform and its pricing structure also makes it very appealing to SMBs. It’s a cinch to deploy and manage, but above all else it really delivers in the performance stakes.

Server:

Windows Server 2003

1.8GHz dual-core CPU

2GB RAM

80GB hard disk space

dual Gigabit

Client:

Windows 2000 upwards

750MHz CPU

256MB RAM

80GB hard disk space

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