What is our primary use case?
As a company dealing in satellite technology, we use it for small to big satellite links, and for some remote islands in the South Pacific. The environments that it's deployed in range from corporate offices, to those remote islands, to vessels. It includes cruise boats and shipping containers, and extends to people in Papua New Guinea working in the mud.
We're an ISP. We use it more on the troubleshooting side. We'll have an Exinda per satellite service, and it allows us to see that portion of the link.
It's very much a hybrid. Most of it is in the hub: one big one in the hub location, and then a lot of remote ones.
How has it helped my organization?
The best benefit for us is on the troubleshooting side. You can stick it between you and another point of traffic. You can packet-capture some of that traffic and you can also see the traffic flow between the two devices. You can actually see what's going on and, as a result, we get involved less in arguments with customers. That makes customers happier. There is less arguing with customers regarding free ports and how the data is used, when you can actually produce a report for the customer. It has helped to reduce troubleshooting time a lot.
Also, when there is a satellite with a high latency, it helps to overcome some of that high latency.
Exinda has also enabled us to gain control over our network traffic, because some of our modems are not really that great at shaping. So if you stick the shaper in front of them, it's a little bit more gentle in dropping packets.
In addition, it has allowed us to maintain app performance without buying more bandwidth. For example, you can shape down traffic, like Windows updates. They will still work, even being fed in a trickle. You can prioritize all the work-related applications and therefore you can get more use out of your bandwidth, or you can customize it per customer.
It also enables us to repurpose bandwidth being consumed by rogue applications. While that doesn't save us any money, it makes us more competitive in the marketplace. A customer can either buy 50 Mb with us or 50 Mb with somebody else, but they'll get a 70 Mb feel with us because we can shape it a little bit better. It makes it less laggy.
What is most valuable?
The most valuable features are the
The first of those is a shaper and not a policer. What I mean by that is it will shape the traffic better than, for example, a Cisco, because it's more gentle on the shaping side of things. Suppose you were selling a 20-meg link. Because you can shape to the Nth degree of traffic, the 20-meg link feels like about a 30 to 40-meg link.
We also use the Exinda dashboard to see what's happening in our network. Most of the time we would provide that type of information to the customer, so they can see for themselves what's going on. But on our end, it helps us to see if a spate of traffic is going in one direction, or if a whole bunch of weird packets are in there during Windows updates. A great example is that last Friday there were a whole bunch of Google phone updates. We could see that people were upgrading firmware on a remote island. The customer was saying they had bad bandwidth. We could tell them, "Hey, it's just Google updates. You can disable it, but that may cause other issues."
What needs improvement?
There might be room for improvement in the speed and throughput of some of their devices. They're getting a bit slow on some of the bigger devices. It would be helpful if there were some sort of an ISP model.
Also, while I don't think it would be possible for them to do, it would be better if they had the Citrix support and the visualization to visualize your network.
Besides that, it fits its purpose as a shaper and accelerator. Some people would say things like, "Add a firewall to it," but I disagree. I think a firewall's a firewall, and Exinda's a shaper and accelerator.
For how long have I used the solution?
I have been using Exinda for somewhere in the vicinity of five to six years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The stability was terrible in version 7.0 but it's been good since version 7.2. There haven't been any recent issues.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
My only complaint about the scalability would be that once you get over about 500 or 600 Mb, it does start to not be as compliant. We haven't spoken to them about it because I don't think they have pushed the envelope as far as we have. I don't think they would understand that part of it. It does what it needs to do. We are trying to make it do a little bit more.
We have plans to increase usage in the future. There has been a bit of a downturn with things like cruise boats, due to COVID, but once that picks back up again we should be fine and installing a lot more of them.
How are customer service and technical support?
Our experience with their tech support started off well. Then, a couple of their employees went wayward, but they got them back and that made things a bit easier. But I cannot really complain about the technical support. You log a case and it does get sorted out.
Of late, it's been okay. It's been pretty good. We don't really use them that much now. With the number of people that we have and how long we have had Exinda for, we may have surpassed what they have been doing.
They have some issues at the moment with delivery and picking stuff up. They have outsourced a lot of that, which makes it a bit difficult, especially when you try to explain that the billing address is an Island and they keep asking for a street name. When there is no street, that does not compute in their system. You literally just send it to the island with a person's name because there are 55 people on the Island and they all know each other. There is no PO box. So that outsourcing has made things a little bit more difficult, but it's not the end of the world. It's still better than a lot of other vendors' technical support.
It was quite nice when Exinda had support in Australia. My complaint now is the time zones in which they support people and during which the accounts people work. I'm not saying they are not responsive, but it was much easier when we could actually pick up the phone and call somebody in Australia. It seems like AUS-PAC has been left to get support from Europe, as well as from an accounts perspective. Therefore, we don't get anyone to actually speak to live so we can say, "We'd like to buy these five things."
There's also nothing much in the way of pre-sales anymore. Previously, we had an account manager and a pre-sales person in here. We could actually ask the pre-sales person a question and he would go back and say, "Let me run this up. I'll let you know tomorrow." Tomorrow would come and he would say, "No," or he would say, "Yes." At the moment, there's none of that at all. We have to provide our own pre-sales for the product.
And sometimes getting a quote back from Europe takes time. If I was to send something in on a Monday, there's no one there on my Monday. I will have to wait a whole 24 hours before I get a response. For us, that may mean a deal will disappear. And if we ask if they have any stock in inventory in Australia, an answer can sometimes take 48 hours to arrive.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We had Riverbed, XipLink, and UniGateway. Before Exinda, we were playing with all of them at the same time. We still use a little bit of XipLink.
We decided to switch because we did a comparison. We ran six solutions side-by-side and we tested them based on speed of installation, reporting, acceleration, shaping, ease of use, and cost. We used an Excel spreadsheet and we got a whole bunch of test sites and we evaluated every single product that we could find.
It came down to three products: Riverbed and XipLink in addition to Exinda. Then the purchasing people went off and had a chat. They were able to bargain things down a little bit on price, so we picked Exinda. The cost drops a little bit when you buy a bigger domain license.
The con with Riverbed is that it was expensive. It has a lot of third-party add-on features that are, to be honest with you, a little bit better than Exinda on the add-on features, especially with things like Citrix.
Ziplink has a different format. It uses tunnels, which can be very good at times. You can use a tunnel to push traffic in a specific direction.
Exinda does not do the tunnels, but it is almost as good as Riverbed, although without the additional features. But then, the cost is much less, so you get better value for your money.
How was the initial setup?
The setup is straightforward now, because we've put a script into the Exinda. So we just dump the config into the Exinda and it pretty much configures most of the stuff for us. But that's because we've put that effort into making it work fast. It's faster to configure an Exinda than, say, a XipLink or a Riverbed, in my opinion. And once you get it scripted, it makes things a lot easier.
To deploy the first one, before we had it scripted, it took us about a month. Now, with the script, it takes about 30 minutes. It only takes one person to deploy it.
The script itself is just a basic satellite config. It has some basic satellite rules. It uses one-way shaping traffic. It does things like that for our network. It uses our DNS servers and all of that information, so we don't have to double-handle things and type everything in twice.
In terms of deployment and maintenance, we have a number of people who are all trained in different things. We have field techs who are trained in deployment and we have support engineers who are trained to support it. Overall, about 20 people are involved.
The number of end-users varies, because we have an island that uses. At one point there were 60,000 people on one island. And then there are cruise boats that can have 20,000 people. The total number of users might be close to 100,000.
What was our ROI?
I'm more on the technical side, but I see the return on investment when you can actually compete with somebody else who doesn't have one. It helps with retention. Customers who have asked for 50 Mb go to somebody else and they usually come back because they did not realize that 50 Mb of non-shaped, versus our 50 Mb, is not the same.
It does make my life easier, being able to troubleshoot something really fast. I'm able to see the traffic on a screen and I'm able to packet-capture quickly. I've never thought of it as a time saver, but it obviously is.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
It is priced well for the market, for what it needs to do. We pay for a site license. It's a one-off fee.
What other advice do I have?
The biggest things with Exinda are being able to shape and visualize and provide a customer with a report. It helps with being open and honest as well. Nine out of 10 times customers have access to the Exinda and so do we, so everything is completely transparent and honest. If they're not getting the 50 Mb, they can see it and we can see it. There's no hiding it, which is what I like a lot.
Look into it keeping in mind that it's a proper shaper and not just a policer. Look into those facts and understand a little bit more about it. I've seen a lot of customers still buying archaic shapers, but it's easier to shape something nicely than to just drop packets. "Shaper versus policer" is probably the best advice I can give. Make sure the shaper that you're buying is actually a proper shaper.
Which version of this solution are you currently using?