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Posts Tagged ‘Steelhead’

Over the years, a number of companies have become synonymous with certain technology markets. These are companies that have been the primary evangelists for a market and are typically the technology and/or share leaders. Examples of this are F5 with Application Delivery Controllers and Aruba Networks in wireless LAN. In the WAN optimization, Riverbed is that vendor. The company has had its way with WAN optimization for over a decade now, has over 50% market share and has been a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for WAN optimization for seven years running now.

However, while being a de facto standard has many advantages, it often makes it a challenge to move into adjacent markets. Blue Coat is a great example of a company that become known as a great security specialist, but struggled to establish itself in the WAN optimization market. This has been Riverbed’s struggle over the past few years. The company has acquired companies like Mazu, Opnet and, my favorite, Zeus, to move into new markets, but has struggled to grow its share in these areas.

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Earlier this week, WAN optimization leader Riverbed announced an upgrade to RiOS, the operating system that powers its Steelhead appliances. This particular release, version 8.5, had some particularly unique features that I felt expanded the use of WAN Optimization appliances.

Historically, WAN optimization products have been used to improve the performance over private networks by accelerating traffic over specific links by accelerating traffic. This made it ideal for optimizing the performance of email, Windows, CAD, and other applications that caused enterprise network managers headaches. From the many interviews I’ve done with Riverbed customers, it’s clear that once network managers get a taste of an optimized WAN, they want more. In fact, one network engineer I talked to described Riverbed as “network crack,” meaning the more he got, the more he wanted.

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Earlier this year, Riverbed released a product known as the “Granite Edge Virtual Server Infrastructure (VSI)” to optimize the performance of many of the applications that it’s core product, Steelhead, does not. 

For those not familiar with the differences between Steelhead and Granite, the traditional Steelhead product optimizes the performance of file-based applications, such as Word and Exchange, through a number of acceleration technologies such as compression and TCP optimization.  Granite addresses block level applications such as database and virtual machines. 

While the continued growth of Steelhead demonstrated that there were a number of “killer apps” for it, the killer application for Granite was not obvious, since there aren’t that many block storage based applications run in the data center. 

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