Microsoft, Packeteer team on branch office appliance

Its iShaper combines Windows server capabilities with Packeteer's WAN acceleration

Microsoft and Packeteer have announced the Packeteer iShaper, an appliance for branch offices designed to combine wide-area network (WAN) optimization with native Windows applications.

The appliance starts at US$11,000 and is expected to ship later in the second quarter, said officials at both companies. Microsoft and Packeteer said they are collaborating on engineering and marketing.

With iShaper, branch office workers will be able to manage and speed up WAN traffic with greater security and at lower cost, Bala Kasiviswanathan, director of Windows server branch and storage solutions at Microsoft, said in a telephone briefing.

Scott Erickson, chief technology officer at Erickson Retirement Communities, said he is a user of Packeteer's existing PacketShaper product and has been beta-testing the new iShaper appliance for more than a week. "Certainly, it has potential," he said.

Erickson said the iShaper appliance appears to be priced low enough that he could afford to add an appliance to each new branch office as the construction and development company continues to grow. Erickson also said he would like to use the appliance to combine file services and other applications with the WAN for easy and fast transmission of bulky engineering drawings and other materials to which field engineers need access.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research, said the joint marketing arrangement between the two companies gives Microsoft the ability to sell additional servers to customers attracted by Packeteer's acceleration technology. "It's incremental for Microsoft, and any box Packeteer sells is the upside for Microsoft," he said.

But Riverbed Technology is the leader in the application acceleration space and has outdone Packeteer in the past two years, Kerravala said. Citrix Systems also competes in that market.

"Packeteer had their chance after 10 years in the market and let Riverbed walk right over them," Kerravala said. "And you can quote me on that."

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