Riverbed Debuts Cloud WAN Optimization, Cloud Storage

Riverbed Technology on Wednesday went live with the next phase of its cloud computing strategy, including the debut of a cloud-ready version of its popular Steelhead WAN optimization appliance, and a first-time entry into the cloud storage market with a product called Whitewater.

With technology analysts all putting the cloud computing opportunity at between $40 billion and $70 billion by 2010, Riverbed said it makes sense to adapt WAN optimization and acceleration tools to meet the demands of cloud infrastructure, particularly the hybrid on-premise and off-premises most enterprises are looking to adopt.

Riverbed CEO Jerry Kennelly called Cloud Steelhead and Whitewater the "nirvana of data processing": speed and reliability across enterprise WANs as if they were LANs.

Both Kennelly and Riverbed Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Eric Wolford. appeared at an event in midtown Manhattan to officially launch the new products.

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First is Cloud Steelhead, a software product that offers WAN optimization and acceleration to customers looking to place resources in the public cloud. It's different from Riverbed's physical and virtual Steelheads, said Wolford, because it integrates with a host of cloud service provider platforms, from Amazon's to AT&T's, offers instant deployment and easy cloning, and is sold as subscription pricing in six-months-or-more increments.

The new Riverbed products come with many customers reaching an impasse as they compare the efficiency promises of cloud computing with ongoing concerns about performance, security, availability and vendor lock-in, said Wolford. What customers had been asking Riverbed, Wolford said, is whether they could take Steelhead's WAN capabilities along with the data they needed to place in the cloud, and achieve similar optimization.

Cloud Steelhead interoperates with all other Riverbed Steelhead appliances and clients -- physical, virtual and mobile -- and uses a "Steelhead discovery agent" to make WAN optimization automatic, even if the physical location of a customer's server changes constantly, or if IP addresses and subnets change.

Launch will be by the end of 2010, Wolford said, and Cloud Steelhead v. 1.0 will initially integrate with Amazon's EC2 and VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) platforms.

The second major announcement from Riverbed was its Whitewater appliance, which thrusts the company full-bore into the cloud storage market. Cloud-based storage is also expected to be a multibillion dollar opportunity within the next four years, Wolford noted, as many enterprises move away from tape- or disk-based backup and adopt cloud computing for backup and recovery needs.

Whitewater is a "cloud storage accelerator" appliance, and will initially integrate with EMC's Atmos, AT&T's Synaptic Storage as a Service, and Amazon's S3 platforms. It requires no changes to enterprises' existing backup software, and according to Riverbed, offers backup times up to 40 percent shorter than before. The appliance not only accelerates the process of storing that data, it also encrypts data in flight and when it has reached the cloud backup, using 256-bit AES encryption and SSL v3, and offers de-duplication.

The appliances will start at $11,995 and be available by the end of the year.

NEXT: The Appeal of Whitewater and Cloud Steelhead

The appeal of the new products will be broad based because they enable cloud computing benefits like ubiquitous access and predictable costs, said Dave Russell, vice president of research at Gartner and a specialist in storage management software. The de-duplicaton aspect of Whitewater is especially compelling, he said, noting that "de-dupe" is the "fastest-adopted backup technology since tape."

A number of vendor and solution provider partners that attended Riverbed's launch noted the importance of speed, security and reliability in transmitting data via the cloud.

Chris Costello, assistant vice president of product management, managed hosting and cloud services at AT&T, said the cloud infrastructure solutions had to be flexible.

"Not everything is fit for cloud builds," she said, noting that the ability to offer colocation, managed services, hosting and full on-demand cloud services -- all of which AT&T does -- builds a lot of credibility with customers confused about whether they have to go "all in" with the cloud or not.

Mike Feinberg, general manager and senior vice president of the Cloud Infrastructure Group at storage giant EMC, agreed that offering cloud solutions means offering customers choices, and the flexibility and cost savings in the hybrid model.

"Cloud is not a computing problem. What cloud is is a data problem," Feinberg explained. "Getting data in the right place is a challenge. It's solved by storage and networking technologies, and it's an 'and,' not an 'either/or'.'"

Riverbed executives said that the company will continue to seek partnerships with cloud storage specialists, including Nirvanix, which operates a 7-node, international storage delivery network.

Geoff Tudor, senior vice president of alliances at Nirvanix,a cloud storage vendor which has more than 700 mostly enterprise customers worldwide, said the data issues those customers are facing are only going to get worse.

Many enterprises expect something on the order of 10 times the data they currently carry in as soon as five years, with 95 percent of that data unstructured. The difficulty of managing and storing that, Tudor said, is compounded when regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA are taken into account.

"This is secure global access to infinite data storage," he said of Nirvanix's offering. "Riverbed plus Nirvanix's SDN means high accessibility at a low cost."