Riverbed Adds Mobile Access

New software works with Steelhead appliances

July 27, 2007

5 Min Read
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Riverbed Technology, the scrappy company that burst into the wide area data services market, scooping up 2,000 customers in less than two years from under the noses of better known competitors, is going mobile.

Though many of its competitors already have mobile offerings, industry analysts say Riverbeds product is more diverse in its consolidation of applications and could therefore dominate market share. “They are doing a great job at filling a hole,” says Arun Taneja, founder of the Taneja Group. “The Steelhead appliance has consolidated all the applications -- including Web, email, Internet, and all file transfers, which other companies don’t always do. Now the software is extending the same capability [to mobile users]."

The company today announced the release of its mobile Steelhead software, which enables mobile workers to link into their corporate data centers from software placed on their laptops or remote desktops.

Until now, Riverbed customers placed Steelhead appliances on each end of a WAN for file transfer and data access throughout branches of the company. The new product enables mobile users to link into the Steelhead appliance sitting at the edge of the network. “The idea behind the mobile software solution is that we took the code [used in the] appliances and ported it to Windows so it could run on anyone’s end machine. This code has been battle-tested by 2,000 customers,” says Apurva Dave, director of product marketing at Riverbed.

The software was beta-tested on 30 customers and is already being installed by others. “I was able to download a 110 megabit file in two or three minutes instead of the 20 minutes it would have taken me on my cable modem from home,” says Travis Klasna, assistant IT manager at JEO Consulting Group, an architecture engineering firm in Nebraska with 120 employees and 10 offices. “Riverbed probably doesn’t want me to advertise this way, but... Last weekend I stole my girlfriend’s Crazr and used it as a modem to connect to our network. I downloaded the same 110 meg file... in eight minutes.”Steelhead appliances focus on speed by copying already used -- or warm files -- onto the system, so that once users go to access them again, they aren’t duplicated, wasting space. The appliance and software can also tell if there are any changes to old files. When there are, the technology only sends the new info, later adding it to the stored file. Klasna notes one drawback is that so-called cold data takes somewhat longer for transport time.

Installing the system means companies need the Steelhead appliance on the network edge, the software on the machines and a management device, which handles usage reports and licensing for mobile users. That manager enables multiple simultaneous licenses.

“On the IT administrator's side, those controllers send reports that are all based on the same code [as the appliance]. You see your traffic summary by application protocol and by port. You see what’s going over your network and what’s being utilized. And you can dig in by user to see what is going on,” says Dave.

The idea of offering mobile access to wide area networks is in no way new. (See WAN Optimizers Lap Up Laptops.) Among those with offerings are Blue Coat, Citrix, and Packeteer. (See Blue Coat Intros Software, WAN Optimization Gone Wild, Citrix Busts Mobile Move, WAN Optimization Inches On, Packeteer Integrates SkyX, Mobiliti, and Packeteer Picks Tacit.)

“There are competitors in certain areas, such as in WAFS [wide area file services] or in TCP acceleration, but as far as being able to holistically accelerate pretty much every protocol, they stand alone,” says Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group.Duplessie also notes end-user ease: “Once it's up and running, no one knows or does anything different -- they only notice that things are moving much faster now. No one has to act any differently -- which has long been the bane of many technology companies,” Duplessie says.

JEO’s Klasna agrees, saying he never educated his users on the system. “I just asked them if they noticed a difference, and they said, ‘Yup.’”

Despite the flurry of activity in the WAN mobile optimization world, the industry is still a long way off from creating standards that would allow mobile users to interact freely with varying networks. Until that happens, all of the software products will strap users into only networks that have their mother appliance.

In an earnings call Thursday, Riverbed execs spent a chunk of time hyping the mobile product, which they said will enlarge the company’s potential market. According to execs there are a “couple of hundred million remote people who work at home” – a much larger number than the amount of companies that will invest in a Steelhead appliance.

The company’s second quarter financial results, reporting a turn to profit as revenues for the quarter surged 199%.The company's second quarter GAAP net income was $3.9 million or 5 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $6.1 million or 46 cents per share in the year ago quarter.

Non-GAAP earnings were was $11.7 million or 16 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $4.6 million or 9 cents per share in the similar quarter of 2006.

— Rivka Gewirtz Little, Special to Byte & Switch

  • Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD)

  • Taneja Group

  • Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)

  • Blue Coat Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BCSI)

  • Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS)

  • Packeteer Inc.

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