Riverbed fulfilled a promise made last fall with the introduction of a new virtual WAN optimizer today. The Virtual Steelhead is the latest in a string of virtual WAN optimizers that we've seen from vendors such as Blue Coat, A10 Networks and Certeon. As with those vendors, Riverbed has ported its physical appliance onto the VMware platform and can support line speeds from 1 Mbps up to 90 Mbps.
Riverbed will continue to deliver its multi-function Steelhead appliances, but the Virtual Steelhead (VS) will bring it into new markets where a VMware appliance is the only viable solution. For instance, where the wiring closet lacks room or where shipping an appliance to the office may not be feasible. Or, where ruggedized hardware might be needed. Riverbed cites a customer who wanted to throw an appliance out of a plane and have it continue to work on the ground.
Though Riverbed says Virtual Steelhead is identical to their existing product line, there are some significant differences. The biggest one is that RSP, and the third-party applications, will not be available on the virtual appliances. Those capabilities will run alongside the virtual appliance in the VMware box. The alternative, running software on top of another virtual appliance, would have made no sense.
Yet in the past, Riverbed has also criticized such configurations, noting that its appliances are able to provide better traffic handling than virtualized appliances running in a VMware box. With VS, they're able to insure that appliances work on incoming traffic in a predefined sequence, something that can't be as easily controlled in the VMware platform.
While Virtual Steelhead could be used in a VMware cloud enviornment, the Virtual Appliance isn't targeted at that market. The target is for scenarios where adding another appliance isn't a good option. The virtual appliances will also run 10-15 percent less than the physical devices. Virtual appliances start at $2,895 for 250-L (1 Mb/s of bandwidth and 30 connections).