This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

A Riverbed-Akamai partnership will help accelerate applications across the public Internet and private networks.

About a year ago, runaway WAN Optimization market leader, Riverbed, announced it had formed a partnership with Akamai, the market leader in Internet optimization, but gave no details as to how the partnership would work or what the joint products would be. Today, the two companies unveiled what they have been working on and it’s targeted at improving the performance of hybrid cloud environments. This service should be appealing to customers, as most companies are looking at hybrid deployments as a way to ease into cloud computing.

The two companies announced the availability of the jointly developed “Steelhead Cloud Accelerator” that combines Akamai’s Internet optimization technology with Riverbed’s WAN optimization solution to offer companies a total “end to end” solution for cloud applications.

The concept is actually pretty simple if you understand what both companies do. Akamai improves the performance of applications by optimizing how traffic flows over the public Internet. However, once the traffic hits a private network, Akamai can no longer optimize the traffic. Conversely, Riverbed’s Steelhead is architected to accelerate the performance over private, corporate networks and has no ability to improve performance over the Internet. Combine the two and you’ve got end-to-end optimization.

Steelhead Cloud Accelerator works by Akamai having a version of RiOS (the Riverbed OS) deployed at the Akamai nodes that are closest to the location of the cloud service and customers. This creates the two-sided connection that Riverbed requires to optimize application performance, although it looks like a single-sided solution to customers.

Consistent with Riverbed’s history, they’ve made the solution relatively easy to deploy. The solution is a subscription-based service that can be added on to existing Riverbed Steelhead appliances, so no new hardware is required. There is no special equipment required by the cloud provider, and customers only need to enable a single instance of Cloud Accelerator for each application being optimized. The subscription fee is, as one would expect, a per user, per month, per application fee which allows customers to start relatively small and try the solution out with a handful of users before committing a larger monthly dollar amount.

Because every application is different and the various application protocols react to the vagaries of a network differently, Riverbed and Akamai can’t optimize the performance of all cloud applications. The ones supported with this release are Google Applications, and Microsoft Office 365. These seemed like logical ones to start with for different reasons.

Salesforce is easily the top cloud-based CRM solution, so optimizing performance of it would have a big payback for deploying organizations. Google Apps, while viewed by many as a set of applications for the rogue worker, has become mainstream. There are not many organizations that have deployed Google Apps across the company, but almost every company has some subset of users that do use it. The use of Google Apps will only grow from here, so Riverbed and Akamai are jumping out in front of that growth.

Lastly, Office 365 makes sense, as Riverbed has spent much of its history optimizing Microsoft protocols, so it’s a logical extension for the company. Despite the shift away from Microsoft in the areas of operating systems, Office is still the dominant productivity suite with almost a monopoly-like share. As companies start to shift applications to the cloud, Office 365 will get a lot of looks from customers, making this a slam dunk for the service.

So while this obviously isn’t an exhaustive list of enterprise applications, it’s a good start. I suspect the two companies will have a relatively aggressive roadmap of other applications that Cloud Accelerator will optimize. Oracle, SAP, LinkedIn and WebEx are some of the ones that come to my mind.

Considering the relative market strength of the two companies, I think this is a great example of a joint solution. Plenty of vendors announce strategic partnerships with other vendors and often they lead to nothing other than some joint marketing. In this case, it appears that Akamai and Riverbed jointly developed a solution that solves the cloud performance problem from the cloud provider all the way to the user’s desktop. Almost every company will have its cloud traffic traverse the Internet and then at least a portion of a private network, so this service should have broad appeal.

Without this solution, to get optimized performance, companies would have to choose an application that was solely Internet based on a private network. “Rakamai” allow customers to leverage the hybrid environments.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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