Riverbed Unveils Virtual WAN Optimization

The market for virtual WAN optimization appliances is about to get a bit more crowded. Riverbed Technology (NASDAQ: RVBD) is jumping into the market with virtual appliance versions of the company’s physical Steelhead WAN optimization hardware.

The Riverbed Virtual Steelhead appliance portfolio is being announced this week, with general availability set for the third quarter of this year. The new virtual appliances will leverage the same RiOS (Riverbed Operating System) 6.1 release featuresthat are currently in use by the physical appliances.

The Steelhead appliances deliver WAN optimization and acceleration capabilities for enterprise networks and applications. Riverbed’s aim with the new appliances is to enable deployment of their acceleration technology in areas that aren’t able to deploy physical boxes. The Riverbed virtual appliance follows moves by a number of the company’s competitors including rival Blue Coat Systems, which announced its own virtual appliances in March.

Riverbed said a key consideration in the development of its virtual appliances ensuring the same level of performance in the virtual realm as in the physical one. The Virtual Steelhead appliances are specifically being developed for deployment on VMware’s virtualization technologies. The company said that proper configuration of VMware ESX server resources is the key to ensuring the performance of the Virtual Steelhead appliances.

“You can reach the stated ratings from the physical appliance spec sheet for the virtual appliance,” Naveen Prabhu, product marketing manager at Riverbed, told InternetNews.com. “You can do that by allocating the right amount of resources on the ESX server.”

In terms of actually determining what the right resource amount actually is, that’s something that Riverbed isn’t providing full details on yet. Prabhu said that Riverbed will provide full configuration details in the deployment guide when the Virtual Steelhead appliance becomes generally available later this year.

Cloud solution in the works

While the Virtual Steelhead appliance will run on VMware servers for virtualized network deployments, it is not intended to be Riverbed’s public cloud solution. VMware ESX can be leveraged for cloud deployments, but Prabhu said that Riverbed’s goal with the new device was about providing another choice for environments where space or other concerns don’t allow for a physical appliance.

“Last November we announced our intention to release something we’ve called the Cloud Steelhead which is different than the Virtual Steelhead,” Prabhu said.”That’s something that will be out at a later date.”

Pradhu explained that the Cloud Steelhead will be optimized such that an infrastructure-as-a-service vendor could deploy the technology as a managed service.

Without the need for physical hardware, the Virtual Steelhead appliances will be cheaper than their physical counterparts.

“The cost is different but not so different that sales of the virtual appliance will cannibalize the physical appliance,” Pradhu said. “It’s more about providing the flexibility to deploy either a virtual or physical appliance based on the needs of the specific environment.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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