Saturday 10 March 2012

Remote Management of a Packeteer iShaper

You could dedicate a whole site to the problems with this product. However, lets start with just one.

The iShaper is basically a melding of the Packeteer PacketShaper and the Packeteer iShared (a product Packteer acquired through their takeover of Tacit Networks). It consists of two planes – the Inline plane which offers the traditional features of the PacketShaper (QoS and not very good reporting) and the Advanced Services plane which runs Windows and offers WAFS and TCP caching (WDC). On paper this device looks a million dollars. The idea is that you can deploy it to a branch office and have it provide the features of a Windows server (Active Directory, DNS, DHCP, printing) together with WAFS, WDC and your traditional PacketShaper QoS. The PacketShaper part (the Inline plane) does a WCCP redirection to the Advanced Services plane of the traffic that needs to go via the WAFS or WDC tunnels. Note that these devices are pretty expensive – depending on your discounts, a mid range server from a tier one vendor is probably cheaper.

One of the problems with this device is that it doesn’t come with any form of built in remote management of the hardware. If you go out and buy a mid range HP Proliant or IBM xServer you’ll have the option of iLO or RSA to provide remote management of power and a remote console. The remote consoles might be slow because they use a Java client and the tracking of the mice might be poor, but at least you can do it. So, if Windows locks up and RDP doesn’t respond, and the server’s in another country, you can try to fix it.

Not so with the iShaper. They have nothing like iLO or RSA (or DRAC in the case of Dells). If RDP doesn’t work you’re stuffed. If the Advanced Services plane stops responding to the network (and that does happen) you’re stuffed.

Because the Inline plane is basically a separate machine it will still respond. You can still
log on and you can use the reset command. However, you can only reset the Inline plane, not the Advanced Services plane. So, you’re still stuffed.

Packeteer now sells an external IP KVM you can use to access the console. Unfortunately, this device only went on sale some considerable time after the release of the iShaper – and it’s not integrated. Nor does it do anything about the power. If Windows were to have a BSOD you would still be stuffed! This does assume that you can get to the KVM. Sometimes a misbehaving iShaper does strange things to the traffic passing through it – like blocking most of it.

My advice, avoid the iShaper. It’s just not good enough!

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