Riverbed Unveils Strategy For Accelerating Access To Public Clouds


Riverbed is the San Francisco-based developer of the Steelhead family of appliances designed to accelerate application performance across wide area networks (WANs).

Riverbed's Steelhead WAN acceleration appliances use a proprietary protocol that compresses and deduplicates data sent across the WAN in order to help WAN traffic approach that of a LAN in terms of performance.

One Steelhead appliance connects to the LAN of each office on the WAN, and two or more Steelheads connect across the WAN to accelerate network traffic between the offices.

The company on Tuesday unveiled plans to build a virtual version of its Steelhead appliance that can be used in customer remote sites or with public compute cloud providers like Amazon to accelerate WAN performance on public clouds.

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Cloud computing is a way to dynamically combine and scale server, storage, networking and other resources outside of a company's own traditional data center for such purposes as running Software-as-a-Service or remote data storage. A company can build an internal or private cloud, which allows those resources to be available for its own purposes, or can use external or public clouds, which are available over the Internet.

The move to virtualize customers' data center infrastructures has laid the groundwork for building compute clouds, said Apurva Dave, senior director of product marketing for Riverbed.

"Virtualization has already started to morph into private clouds," Dave said. "But more recently, the public cloud has emerged to help IT directors accelerate their operations. So we are taking our technology for accelerating private clouds, and using it to accelerate the public cloud."

Customers are by no means moving 100 percent of their IT infrastructures to a public cloud, Dave said.

"But they want the freedom to design around public, private and virtual clouds without caring about where their applications are running," he said. "With a public cloud, users are farther away from their applications. Even users inside the office are becoming remote users."

To help customers and their solution providers more easily make the move to public compute clouds, Riverbed on Tuesday said it is developing a virtual WAN accelerator appliance based on its existing Steelhead appliance.

The virtual Steelhead will work the same as a physical Steelhead appliance, except that it is a software version that will be able to be uploaded as a virtual appliance on a public cloud.

At that point, users and IT managers will then be able to connect to the public compute cloud to access applications and data with the same performance as if they were going across the corporate WAN via physical Steelhead appliances, Dave said.

The virtual Steelhead appliance will interact with physical and virtual servers and with other physical or virtual Steelhead appliances, he said.

Riverbed is also working on other technology to accelerate both the ability to access applications and data over public compute clouds as well as customer adoption of public compute clouds, Dave said.

One of those technologies is aimed at accelerating the ability to access data on the cloud by accelerating the iSCSI storage protocol.

"With public clouds, you can offer storage as a service," Dave said. "Storage in the cloud is on such a scale that it is very cheap to provide. It would be nice if we could make the server and the application think it is connected directly to a SAN even if they are connected to a public cloud."

Such a technology would free customers and channel partners to design systems in ways that make the most sense for users in terms of reducing the cost and increasing the performance of their storage, Dave said.

"We will make storage on the cloud available from everywhere," he said.

Riverbed plans to start releasing products to accelerate access to public clouds in 2010, Dave said.