Who is Badu Networks?
Badu Networks is a startup company with expertise in TCP optimization. The big idea is to improve traffic throughput when network conditions are less than ideal, such the high jitter environment commonly found in wireless networks.
Badu Networks has a range of products, including the WarpGateway, WarpEngine, and WarpServer, each with different use cases. The WarpGateway sits in between a wireless network and an Internet connection of up to 100Mbps. WarpEngine handles up to 1Gbps currently, with 10Gbps and 40Gbps on the roadmap. WarpServer services content delivery networks.
WarpServer is delivered as software. WarpGateway and WarpEngine are delivered as hardware appliances.
What did they announce?
Badu Networks has released the WarpGateway, a hardware appliance that sits inline between an Internet modem and a wireless network. The WarpGateway is a TCP proxy that creates 2 conversations: one on the wireless side, and one on the Internet modem side. WarpGateway’s magic is found in special algorithms that determine the throughput capability of the wireless network and adjust TCP parameters to maximize traffic performance.
For example, if we assume that the wireless network has high jitter (an unpredictable range of times in between packet arrivals), we can also assume that TCP will tend to reduce the window size due to late acknowledgements of received traffic. A reduced window size will mean reduced throughput, as less traffic is sent during each transmission before waiting for an acknowledgement.
To overcome this situation, WarpGateway’s TCP stack doesn’t follow standard TCP behaviors, instead using its own algorithms to determine the maximum window size that can be tolerated for a given network environment. The end result? Better throughput.
Do you need this product?
Badu Networks’ WarpGateway is positioned as a plug ‘n’ play appliance requiring a minimum of configuration to achieve a benefit. As they explained it to Packet Pushers, there is almost nothing to configure aside from normal IP addressing. Plug the WarpGateway inline, and it will begin optimizing TCP traffic immediately.
WarpGateway is designed to optimize up to 100Mbps Internet connections. If your Internet connection is larger than 100Mbps, Badu will position you in a different product.
WarpGateway use cases include SOHO, SMB networks, and even large enterprises. Badu Networks is seeing strong interest from hotels, citing an Anaheim, CA property that transitioned from, “Our patrons hate our wireless network,” to “We don’t receive wireless network complaints anymore.” Other WarpGateway use cases include coffee shops, airports, schools, and offices.
Badu claims that the practical limit of the WarpGateway is the 100Mbps throughput, not the number of users or TCP sessions. In their testing, Badu was never able to exceed a maximum number of sessions, although CPU and memory should theoretically create a ceiling.
Starting at $1,200 for the WG-100, pricing is set at a point where it will likely be more cost effective to install a WarpGateway than completely rebuild a wireless network. WarpGateway is available through resellers Bemis Development and Twintel, as well as Amazon.
The view from the hot aisle.
TCP optimization products are not new. There are various strategies and niches that these products fall into. The most easily recognizable niche is WAN optimization, filled by products such as Riverbed’s Steelhead appliances. WAN optimization appliances optimize not only TCP, but also higher-level application protocols such as HTTP.
With WarpGateway, Badu Networks is going after a specific problem: poor TCP application throughput across wireless networks. Is WarpGateway likely to work for you? I believe it’s worth investigating. TCP optimization is a math problem, and Badu’s founders are the sorts of well-educated folks who are both strong in math and algorithms. In other words, this product feels real to me, and could be a useful tool for networks needing a simple plug ‘n’ play fix to a wireless throughput problem.
That said, don’t expect WarpGateway — or any product, for that matter — to fix a badly engineered wireless network. The ratio of APs to clients must be considered, along with coverage, spectrum interference, and other standard wireless design issues. While I do believe WarpGateway can improve wireless performance by getting clients off the air as quickly as possible or facilitating higher bandwidth throughput for large flows, I don’t believe WarpGateway is going to fix a failing wireless network that’s badly designed.