Riverbed has products on tap that will enable WAN optimization as a cloud service, speed up the boot time for remote virtual desktops and, perhaps in a year or two, a software client that will speed up the performance of handhelds and smartphones.
The company is going to launch a product called Cloud Steelhead late in the fourth quarter of this year, which includes all the features of Riverbed's Steelhead optimization appliances but with features designed for service providers that will make it easier to create services around speeding up transactions over the WAN.
"It has special features that allow it to capture the network traffic for the customer in the public cloud so he can do his acceleration and also some features that service providers like -- the ability to serve multiple customers and have billing data," says Riverbed CEO Jerry Kennelly. "Think of it as a special version of the Virtual Steelhead to be mounted in public cloud providers like Amazon, AT&T -- anyone who is a public cloud provider."
Virtual Steelhead is software introduced last month that can run on VMware virtual machines and includes all the features of a Steelhead appliance.
Kennelly says that the company has traditionally gone after customers who want to speed up connections with data centres and that virtual desktops face some of the same challenges traffic on those links, namely distance that introduces delay and bandwidth restrictions, both of which can be mitigated by optimizing traffic so less bits are sent across the WAN. "We help anyone who's doing desktop virtualisation to make a cheaper, more powerful experience for the individual running the desktops, number one," he says. "Number two, we have future products in development that will give you the ability to boot up your servers from across the WAN and have an even more powerful desktop experience.
Some of what is holding Riverbed back is that desktop virtualisation itself has been slow to become popular, he says. "The dream is that IT guys would like guys out at the edge with their laptops and desktops to be able to boot that up across the WAN to do continuous protection of their files and essential storage and be able to manage the image of all the desktops in the company in a way that's cheap and efficient," Kennelly says.
The company already has Steelhead Mobile client software that speeds up connections between Steelhead appliances and individual laptops and desktops, but thanks to advances in memory on handhelds, the company may develop clients for them as well, he says. "I think it's come on a little slower than people thought. It is coming and I think that products like ours along with our good friends at VMware and Microsoft will keep that trend going," Kennelly says.
The impediment with the PDAs and the handhelds has been you have to have a certain amount of storage capacity to do the optimisations. "That storage capacity is now becoming available cheaply and readily for these devices and so we're looking at the market opportunity," he says. "We get a lot of requests from people who would love to see their PDA, their cell phone, their mobile device accelerated, particularly with people trying to view video and get heavy files across the network and onto their PDA … It's something we can look at in 2012, 2013."
The most immediate opportunity is cloud computing, he says, because it poses challenges similar to what Riverbed already addresses for data centres. "What this means is on average is the cloud trend continues that he typical knowledge worker each year is farther away from the data centre where his data and processing is done than it was the year before," he says. "That increase in distance is good for Riverbed because we solve the problem of computing across distance."