Cisco Systems WAAS Mobile 3.4 review

Price when reviewed

WAN optimisation has traditionally been beyond the means of SMBs, with most solutions based around having a central device installed at the head office and satellite units at branch offices. This is costly, and means mobile workers end up with poorly performing connections.

Cisco’s WAAS (Wide Area Application Services) Mobile is designed to optimise WAN links for small and home office workers, and mobile and remote workers. It’s also a complete software solution and doesn’t require proprietary hardware. WAAS Mobile consists of two components, with the Server running on a system on the LAN and the Client Manager running on each user’s PC.

It functions as a transparent TCP proxy that intercepts and optimises all TCP traffic. To achieve this, delta caches are deployed on both the client and server; these store WAN traffic and use algorithms to remove all repetition. This latest version offers a larger delta cache – the clients can be up to 10GB and the server supports up to 275GB.

Compression and encryption can be applied to all traffic as standard and Cisco provides protocol optimisation too. But WAAS Mobile scores over its rivals thanks to the extra features provided. While many vendors offer HTTPS acceleration as an option or a separate product, WAAS Mobile has it as standard.

Application acceleration is also standard and you can choose which applications to include simply by adding them to a list on the WAAS server. This includes a wide range of common applications but it’s easy enough to add your own.

Installation is simple: you load the server component first, which only takes a few minutes, then manage it from its intuitive web interface. From here you create client distribution packages, selecting which features you want certain users to have, and send them a URL link to download and install the package.

You can stop users interacting with the client and set the size of the local delta cache. Other options include enabling HTTPS acceleration, deactivating encryption if required and maintaining persistent connections, a unique feature where the client maintains the connection for mobile workers that may be roaming between cells. The server management interface is easy to get to grips with and the home page provides a mass of reporting and statistical information.

For performance testing we used the lab’s resident Network Nightmare WAN simulator ( and configured it for a 1Mb/sec WAN link with 40ms latency.

We placed Windows Vista SP1 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 also running file sharing, FTP, web and mail services with the latter coming courtesy of Kerio’s MailServer.

it_photo_31964To test optimisation we used a 4.9MB PowerPoint presentation copied and emailed to and from the test server; we then opened it remotely on the client, saved a modification and transferred it via FTP too. These tests were run once with the WAAS Mobile client disabled and then with it turned on.

On the first run, remotely opening the file in 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 fell to 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 respectively.

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