WAN Space Picks Up The The Pace


Startup Riverbed Technologies this week is launching a major overhaul of its portfolio that includes a revamp of its software and the debut of several new high-end appliances aimed at the enterprise.

The move follows Citrix Systems' completion last week of its purchase of Orbital Data and the unveiling of an expanded partnership with Microsoft to target the WAN optimization market with new branch-office appliances built on the acquired technology.

Solution providers said the promise of providing LAN-like application performance over the WAN to branch-office users while simultaneously saving bandwidth and enabling server consolidation into the data center has more than piqued customers' interest in WAN optimization technology.

Customers of Trace3, an Irvine, Calif.-based Riverbed partner, are seeing a 75 percent to 95 percent improvement in application performance after they deploy the vendor's WAN optimization technology, said Hayes Drumwright, CEO of Trace3. "When a client gets that kind of performance increase, you don't have much to talk about after that. They just buy it," Drumwright said.

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It's also an area that's poised for tremendous growth, said Mike Thompson, president and CEO of Groupware Technology, Campbell, Calif., who said his company has had tremendous success selling WAN optimization products from Riverbed.

"It's new to customers. Many of them didn't have allocated budgets because they didn't know these products existed. The close rate will increase as customers go back and get budget for it," Thompson said.

Riverbed's technology overhaul includes the launch of its biggest appliances yetthe Steelhead 5520 and 6020. With support for an OC-3 WAN connection (155 Mbps) and 1.5 Tbytes of disk space, the 5520 offers three times the capacity of the 5010, previously Riverbed's largest model. The 6020, now its largest model, doubles that with support for two OC-3-connections (310 Mbps) and 3.2 Tbytes of disk space.

The company also is launching the first model in a new line. The Interceptor 9200 is a box designed to act as a load-balancer of sorts for a rack of Steelhead appliancesa product solution providers said will ease implementation of large-scale deployments.

In addition, the new 3.0 version of Riverbed's RiOS software now streamlines NFS (Network File System) traffic, adding new support for Unix environments and expanding the addressable market solution providers can tackle with Riverbed's appliances.

Riverbed has taken its time testing the new software, with 35 customers beta-testing version 3.0 since May 1, said Alan Saldich, vice president of product marketing at Riverbed, San Francisco. "We put 60 extra days into the beta schedule," he said. "It's the most important release for us."

The Riverbed product launch comes on the heels of a partner push that has seen the company's percentage of North American channel sales jump in the second quarter to 75 percent, up from 35 percent in the same quarter a year earlier. Riverbed has about 100 North American partners, said Bertrand Yansouni, vice president of channel sales at the company.

"We'd rather shower a few partners with a lot of love [rather than bring on a large number of partners], and if we're not seeing the same focus back, then the relationship probably is not meant to be," Yansouni said.

Available this week, pricing for the Steelhead 5520 appliance costs $69,995 and the 6020 is $119,995. The Interceptor is priced at $49,995.

Poised to join Riverbed in the WAN optimization market is the duo of Citrix, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. The two companies disclosed last week that they are planning to ship a new branch-office appliance in the second half of 2007.

To be built with common hardware, the appliance will be branded and sold by Citrix and its partners, said Bala Kasiviswanathan, Microsoft group product manager for Windows Server Branch and Storage Solutions.

The appliance will combine Windows Server 2003 R2 and ISA server from Microsoft with Citrix's WANScaler software, said Wes Wasson, vice president of Citrix's Application Networking Group. Pricing was not disclosed, but Wasson said the companies likely would come up with a family of products targeting branch offices of different sizes.

The WAN optimization space, which garnered the limelight last year as Cisco Systems, F5 Networks and Juniper Networks all snapped up smaller players, is expected to hit $610 million by 2009, up from $314 million last year, according to IDC.

BARBARA DARROW contributed to this story.