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WAN Optimization Meets Application Acceleration in Riverbed Upgrades

Riverbed integrates new Web content optimization and traffic management technology into its Stingray WAN optimization solutions.

Riverbed Technology, a WAN optimization provider, has introduced several significant upgrades to its Stingray platform. A key component of these enhancements is the integration of new traffic management capabilities and Web content optimization, says Kavitha Mariappan, director of product marketing at Riverbed.

The Stingray platform can be installed on a server or a virtual appliance, allowing its use in a data center or a branch office, or on other ADC environments from F5, Citrix and Cisco. It has traditionally supported a variety of features, including application content delivery, WAN optimization and firewall capabilities. These improvements promise to optimize a wider range of components in the Internet optimization ecosystem using a single software platform.

"The most exciting thing about Stingray's announcement is that application performance should not be an afterthought--something to worry about later," says Mike Gualtieri, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. "The Stingray product lets application developers take an active role in application performance management. Until now, application performance has always been about measurement but not solutions. This is all about solutions. Finally."

The Stingray Traffic Manager technology was acquired from Zeus Technology last year. This supports a variety of features to reduce Web latency such as load balancing, TCP offload, data reduction, compression and caching.

During the past decade, Web applications have been commonplace for both business- and consumer-facing applications. Unfortunately, best practices have not kept up with this shift as developers continue to add features to their applications. Average Web page size has grown more than four times, to 1 Mbyte, according to HTTParchive.org. In addition, the number of objects on a Web page has grown threefold, to 85. Both of these trends lead to lower-performance pages.

The Aptimizer technology acquired from Aptimize of New Zealand last year integrates best practices into the Web development. This allows developers to focus on application logic--which includes features such as image resampling and converting images into sprites that can be integrated directly into the HTML script--and file merging, which converts multiple JavaScript files into one to reduce latency bottlenecks associated with loading multiple scripts.

According to Mariappan, the image resampling component is unique in this field, and allows the server to dynamically decrease the image size without adversely affecting quality. This feature can reduce image sizes to one-tenth, thereby reducing bandwidth requirements. In some cases, application bandwidth is reduced 75% to 90% using this one technique.

Great Schools, which had been focused on front-end optimization, saved 12 developer weeks per quarter using Stingray Aptimizer. This allowed the organization to put developers on more strategic activities, says Mariappan. "A lot of high-traffic companies, such as online auctions and even sales, know they will have traffic spikes, so they will have developers focusing on manually tuning this content. This is a complex thing to do," she explains.

"We see this being in line with the developer-operations movement, where developers and operational teams are coming together earlier. Making features like image spriting and image resampling available earlier in the development process will allow people to incorporate best practices earlier on."

In order to promote a wider array of applications for the Stingray platform, Riverbed has also released a free version of the platform for development along with supporting tools. In addition, the company launched a development community to support developers and share code.

"We would like developers to code with it and then come back to the community to share their findings," Mariappan says. "We believe that engaging the developer community is a critical part of our success, as it lets them develop products faster."

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