Just in time for VMWorld, fast-growing WAN optimization specialist Silver Peak Systems is integrating its technology with VMware's vCenter virtualization management platform -- a move to enable far easier acceleration of virtual workloads.
Silver Peak, which confirmed the move earlier this week, is tackling a problem many enterprises say is rampant: Attempting to move workloads over a distance -- beyond a single data center -- results in weakened performance due to latency, congestion and other factors that stymie the network.
The vCenter integration -- the first of several with various virtualization management consoles, according to Silver Peak -- is part of a new initiative from the company called "Agility," which will tackle precisely that problem.
"Now that WAN op is a VM and can be delivered as a VM, we said what can we do to actually allow VM administrators or server administrators to directly consume our products," Rick Tinsley, Silver Peak's president and CEO, told CRN. "We've often had to deal with organizational complexity -- you have to get people in two to three different silos to help solve a problem. So if we can automate a lot of this stuff, we fix that complexity, and this one is definitely underappreciated."
How it works is that Silver Peak's Virtual Acceleration Open Architecture (VXOA) software is provided to vCenter as a plug-in and then controlled and managed within vCenter. Administrators can automatically provision and more easily manage the various workloads using the same VMware software they're already comfortable with.
Tinsley confirmed that the same capability for Citrix XenCenter will be available near the end of the year, with another version of VXOA for Microsoft virtualization environments also on the horizon.
Silver Peak has emerged as channel-friendly upstart in the WAN optimization space and one of the most buzzed-about alternatives to Riverbed Technology, which dominates the segment with what most analysts say is a 50 percent to 52 percent share to Silver Peak's roughly 6 percent to 7 percent.
In late 2011, Silver Peak launched an updated channel program, Silver Peak Champions, and in February, went live with what it called the Virtual WAN Optimization Marketplace -- an online site through which customers can access all of Silver Peak's virtual WAN optimization appliances and test-drive them with a 30-day trial license.
According to Tinsley, the marketplace has been a success.
"Ninety percent of the customers doing trials are using our virtual products, either self-service downloads or from channel partners who are doing the downloads and showing them the products," he said. "We see that, as part and parcel of making the products open and free to try, we increase our channel leverage."
Tinsley said solution providers and distributors were trying out the idea of hosting the Silver Peak marketplace on their own sites, so Silver Peak forged ahead with a franchise model for doing so. Sixteen of Silver Peak's partners now offer the portal as a micro-site.
"Virtualization changes a lot of the terms of how you can deliver your product and where the value can ultimately reside in the supply chain," Tinsley explained. "And we found with resellers, just as we found with customers, that a lot of them already really understand VMware and are far down the curve on virtualization. They can embrace this stuff a lot more quickly."
Tinsley didn't provide figures on how much the trial licensing was boosting sales of Silver Peak products, but said that because offering the virtual appliances as trial-able software was so inexpensive for Silver Peak -- at least, compared to providing demo equipment of hardware appliances -- it was a pretty safe bet.
"We know some customers are just window shoppers," he said. "They don't buy anything. But it's really no skin off our back to do it anymore."
Silver Peak is privately held, but Tinsley said its revenue is growing more than 40 percent sequentially. The company not only works through solution provider reseller relationships but also has a lucrative OEM business, including agreements with EMC, Hitachi Data Systems and Dell, with which Silver Peak is a global partner.
Tinsley posits that the increasing importance of virtualization in WAN optimization and the data center will expand Silver Peak's appeal to a wider range of partners. The company's earlier partners were more predisposed toward storage and infrastructure, he said, but a newer set of more application-oriented partners is already emerging.
Virtualziation's role in networking, especially, is something for which there's no turning back, Tinsley said, citing VMware's recent $1.2 billion acquisition of software-defined networking startup Nicira as a prime example.
If you needed a reason to think the tier-one vendors cared about network virtualization and the SDN trend, Tinsley said, "there's your reason."
PUBLISHED AUG. 24, 2012