Riverbed Scales Up
The new hardware and software are slated for official release on Aug. 30.
Riverbed says customers have become comfortable enough with the technology that they now want to install it across larger swaths of the network, scaling to thousands of remote sites. (See Riverbed Makes It Official and Riverbed Hedges IPO Bet.)
The granddaddy of the new boxes is the Interceptor 9200, a hub for clustering Riverbed's Steelhead appliances for a maximum of 4-Gbit/s throughput -- served through 12 Gigabit Ethernet ports -- and 1 million connections. "There are at least five companies we're working with that have to do this because their deployments are that large," says Eric Wolford, Riverbed's senior vice president of marketing and business development.
Riverbed is also beefing up the capacity of the Steelheads beyond the previous maximum of 45 Mbit/s. The Steelhead 5520 offers one OC3 (155 Mbit/s) worth of bandwidth, and the 6020 provides twice that. Wolford notes that those numbers are with disk deduplication turned on, whereas some competitors are able to quote higher numbers by keeping deduplication turned off.
That's a dig at F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV), which already claims OC12 (622 Mbit/s) capacity for its WAN acceleration gear. "One of our differentiators has been our ability to scale," says Amit Dhillon, F5's director of product management.
Prices go up to about $119,000 for the 6020 and $50,000 for the Interceptor.
Riverbed is also adding a passel of enhancements with the 3.0 release of its RiOS software. Topping the list is the addition of QOS, using differentiated services (DiffServ) tags to recognize the differences among voice, video, and data.
Riverbed's earlier success was based more on performance -- improving the speeds of enterprise applications -- and on being easy to install. It's now focusing on larger-scale installations. "In the early stage of the adoption curve, scaling isn't the issue," says Wolford.
The idea isn't to supplant router QOS, as Steelhead will continue to honor router QOS markings. But some customers would prefer for Riverbed to do the prioritizing, Wolford says.
Naturally, competitors claim to cover much of the same ground. Packeteer Inc. (Nasdaq: PKTR), which recently put out its 8.0 software release, says it's got QOS down already, and that its version is more discriminating. "You've got to make sure worms and viruses don't go fast either," says David Puglia, Packeteer vice president of marketing. "We accelerate, but we also understand applications." (See Force10 Intros Security Boxes.)
As for Riverbed's products, other enhancements in the 3.0 product include support for the NetFlow protocol, allowing IT managers to determine which application ports and users are generating specific packets.
One beta customer, Jon Wilson, senior network engineer at aircraft manufacturing specialist ElectroImpact, has been using three Steelheads to link his Mukilteo, Wash., HQ with its U.K. offices in Chester and Bristol. Better compression algorithms in the new Riverbed software, he says, are significantly speeding up his file transfers.
"Previously a 5-Gbyte file would have taken three to four minutes to send to the U.K.; now it takes in the area of two minutes," he says.
But Wilson wants more software enhancements from Riverbed: "I would like to see them develop [the reporting feature] and make it stronger. If there are network bottlenecks, I would like to have something on the level of a packet sniffer that you have on your routers."
Separately, Riverbed's 3.0 adds the file-system support necessary to work with Unix-based operating systems. WAN acceleration has been primarily Windows territory until now. "Windows is a bigger market. There are more remote offices with Windows," Wolford says.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading, and James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch