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New Riverbed OS Accelerates Microsoft And More

Riverbed Technology has announced version 6.1 of the Riverbed Optimization System (RiOS), the operating system underlying its WAN optimizers. With 6.1, Riverbed adds application optimization to a range of  Microsoft suites, including Exchange 2010, SharePoint, and Microsoft Online for SharePoint and Exchange. It also adds support for Lotus Notes 8.5. Additionally, RiOS 6.1 delivers enhanced optimizations for disaster recovery (DR) performance by improving on storage networking protocols.

Application performance is critical as more apps traverse the WAN or the Internet. WAN acceleration products, such a those from Riverbed, Silverpeak, Blue Coat, F5, Cisco and others, can help ensure acceptable performance from cloud-based applications. "RiOS is a good move for organizations that want to take advantage of SaaS applications but have remote office locations with low bandwidth availability," says Michael Biddick, an analyst with InformationWeek Analytics and CTO of Fusion PPT. "However, organizations need to weigh the costs of WAN optimization appliances at all their branch offices compared with the cost to upgrade the network."

Riverbed aims to reduce both latency and the amount data on the WAN link for both encrypted and unencrypted Exchange 2010 traffic with the RiOS 6.1 release. The company claims as much as a 95 percent data reduction vs. non-optimized traffic. While Riverbed's support for the encrypted mode of Exchange 2010 is interesting, it's not entirely new. F5 Big-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) offers native Exchange 2010 encryption for end-to-end support as well as SSL offload, where only the link between the client and the WAN optimizer is encrypted.

RiOS 6.1 also extends Riverbed's optimization capabilities for SharePoint, which has become a business-critical application as enterprises strive to improve productivity by sharing documents and information in a collaborative environment. The new version accelerates traffic at both the network layer and application layer and eliminates unnecessary round trips associated with SharePoint authentication requests. The company claims the software upgrade reduces application latency and response times by up to 50 percent over previous versions.

"The Riverbed Steelhead appliances have allowed International Justice Mission (IJM) to accelerate application performance - especially e-mail and our centralized intranet and training running on SharePoint," says John Lax, Vice President of Information Systems at IJM. "These are critical applications for training our employees working in the field and communicating about rescue missions."

As organizations move to cloud environments for hosting data and applications, users become more separated from business-critical IT resources, and productivity often suffers because of poor application performance caused by latency and bandwidth limitations over the WAN. RiOS 6.1 optimizes both encrypted and unencrypted traffic for Microsoft Online Exchange and provides layer 7 application acceleration for Microsoft Online SharePoint. Riverbed is the first WAN optimization vendor we've seen to enhance acceleration and optimization for Microsoft Online for SharePoint and Exchange.

Riverbed also introduces the ability to optimize and accelerate encrypted traffic for Lotus Notes 8.5, making Riverbed the first WAN optimization vendor to optimize traffic for the latest release of Lotus Notes. This feature reduces latency for Domino Server and Notes Client replication.

For organizations looking to speed replication traffic over the WAN, RiOS 6.1 delivers enhanced storage optimizations by reducing DR traffic and accelerating replication times between data centers. The new software optimizes EMC's popular replication software, SRDF, which will benefit EMC Symmetrix VMAX and Symmetrix DMX customers. The 6.1 release also offers a new auto-negotiate compression feature for SRDF, enabling simplified management and increased availability. It also provides storage networking optimizations for FCIP traffic over Brocade 7500 and Cisco MDS gateways. These enhancements speed FCIP traffic to and across the network on both a protocol and a network level.

The latest Riverbed upgrade addresses acceleration of critical business applications, but that's not the only concern for IT buyers, who may also want capabilities such as load balancing. The question is whether to purchase those capabilities separately, or get a single product that combines acceleration with other features.

"I think these single-use appliances can cause architectural complexity and potential lock-in to those applications they support," says Biddick. "Overall, I think these fit a specific and narrow customer segment, so I think the applicability is not relevant to most organizations." RiOS 6.1 will be generally available this quarter. The upgrade is free for Riverbed customers.