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Steelhead Alternatives and Competitors

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Marek Jaworski
Senior Engineer, Team Lead, Network Operations at a comms service provider with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
Top 5Leaderboard
Allows us to have better control over our network by shaping traffic more gently

Pros and Cons

  • "The most valuable features are the shaper, accelerator, and the reporting... 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."
  • "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."

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 

  • shaper
  • accelerator 
  • reporting.

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.

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
Lipaz Hessel
Solutions Architect at Gilat telecom
Real User
Top 5
An end-to-end solution that is simple to use and supports asymmetric lines

Pros and Cons

  • "The most valuable feature is the support for asymmetric lines."
  • "The security can be improved, with the firewall for example, because they supply a basic one but not a UTM."

What is our primary use case?

We are a service provider that uses satellite communications to offer solutions that are built using products from multiple vendors. We call our product SD-WAN Max and it includes applications from vendors such as Silver Peak, Fortinet, and others to help customers best leverage their options.

Unity EdgeConnect is one of the products that make up SD-WAN Max.

Our customers include enterprises that are managing their HQ and ISPs.

How has it helped my organization?

EdgeConnect is the component of our solution that makes it manageable.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the support for asymmetric lines.

This is the only end-to-end solution, where you can have multiple links. It allows you to manage everything inside your SD-WAN. With other solutions, it is more difficult to manage both sides.

This product is very simple to use.

It supports zero-touch provisioning.

What needs improvement?

The security can be improved, with the firewall for example, because they supply a basic one but not a UTM. This is why you always need another product to go with it, such as one by Fortinet or Check Point.

We would like to see a VPN included.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been working with EdgeConnect for three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have been running EdgeConnect for the last few years on a daily basis and we have no problems with stability.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is very easy to scale. One of our customers is a telecommunication company that has 80 million people surfing the internet through this product.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is very efficient. In the few times that we have needed to contact them, we were given answers immediately.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is simple.

What about the implementation team?

Our in-house team takes care of implementation and deployment.

We have four people in the company who are experts with this product, and they can do anything with it. In addition, we have another six who handle the management and monitoring, but use other products in addition to it.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The licensing fees depend on the bandwidth. As an example of what we charge our customers, for 100MB without Boost, the price is approximately $2,000. That includes the licensing and the unit.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We tried solutions by three vendors before we selected EdgeConnect. For example, we tried to use Riverbed but it did not work for us. The problem has to do with load balancing and managing traffic.

We have one link that is 2GB with 800 milliseconds, and the second one is 1GB with 200 milliseconds. The other vendors were not able to handle these connections.

What other advice do I have?

My advice for anybody who is implementing EdgeConnect is not to try doing it alone. Select a good partner because there are many things that you have to know and need to be considered. It is an easy solution, but there are limitations that you have to be aware of.

Overall, this is a good product but if they had UTM then it would be great.

I would rate this solution a ten out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
Gaurav-Singh
Presales & Solutions Architect at UST Global España
Real User
Top 10
Good security, documentation, and technical support, but the price should be lower

Pros and Cons

  • "The most valuable feature is security, as it gives me the port bindings that cannot be accomplished using other solutions."
  • "I would like to either see the price reduced or have it packaged with other products to give better value for the money."

What is our primary use case?

We are a solution provider and this is one of the products that we implement for our clients.

One of the use cases was as an optimizer in a low-bandwidth area where I wanted to replace the MPLS connection.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is security, as it gives me the port bindings that cannot be accomplished using other solutions.

This solution gives me IPv6 layering over IPv4, which is helpful for some environments.

The documentation is very good.

What needs improvement?

I would like to either see the price reduced or have it packaged with other products to give better value for the money. For example, other solutions have multiple services embedded in their appliance, which gives better value.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have worked with NetScaler SD-WAN in several projects over the past three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

This is a stable and mature product. We have few admin support cases and the maintenance is very limited.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

This solution scales out well. We generally work with large business and enterprise-level organizations.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support from Citrix is very good. If I am stuck while performing a setup, I can get immediate support while I am on the call.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have also work with similar solutions from Riverbed. I found that the documentation and support from Citrix were better.

How was the initial setup?

Setting up is a little bit complex. It is definitely not done with the click of a button.

For us, it normally takes about a week to understand the requirements and deploy it.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

As NetScaler is now, I find it quite pricey.

What other advice do I have?

My advice to anybody who is considering this product is to first understand the business and the requirements. No solution should be purchased in haste. I have seen businesses with proper tools but they don't know what to do with them.

I would rate this solution a seven out of ten.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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