Discussions about optimizing WAN links are on the rise, as a result of an increasing tendency to consolidate server and data centers. Most of the big players in networking business like Cisco, F5, Packeteer, Riverbed and since a couple of months Citrix with his WANScaler (former Orbital Data), just to name a few, are very active in this field. The focus however is usually in accelerating file and print services (SMB/CIFS), as well as frequently used protocols like HTTP, FTP and MAPI (Outlook/Exchange).

Not only since the acquisition of Orbital Data by Citrix in Oktober 2006 more and more people are asking if and how ICA can be optimized. Be it that high latency on satellite links, or GPRS/UMTS slows down screen refreshes to an unacceptable rate, or that one big print job bars a whole site from working, people ask for help more and more. Citrix with their WANScaler raised the expectations in many companies and won’t get tired of deliver their message “we overcome latency” and “latency doesn’t matter anymore”.

As a Riverbed partner in Switzerland i know the technologies and dependencies pretty good and also know about the problems in WAN environments. Therefore i couldn’t believe all those announcements and always tried to scale down the expectations of my customers. My own tests with WANScaler and Riverbed appliances showed no noticeable improvement in this area. I will post a comparison between these two products on this blog shortly. Citrix was only able to provide me with a WANScaler with the unofficial (Citrix)release 3.1.8, which is more or less a rebranded Orbital Date release. I couldn’t get my hands on the actual version 4.1 which is supposed to be the first “real” Citrix version of WANScaler, regardless how much i asked and begged. As soon as i have a chance to test the new release i will post the results here. But now back to the main topic…

Now Citrix consulting finaly released a paper, in which they analyze and describe the possibilities and especially the limits when trying to optimize ICA. I can really recommend this paper for everyone who is awaiting the visit of any kind of “WAN optimizer” for preparation. All other Citrix administrators are encouraged to read this paper too, because this topic will become important sooner or later – and then you will be prepared.

Truths and Myths of Presentation Server and WAN Optimization