Riverbed Opens Up RiOS to Software Services

WAN optimization specialist carves up its OS and plans third-party software services

February 26, 2008

4 Min Read
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Riverbed overhauled its core RiOS operating system today, carving up its software in an attempt to free up users' bandwidth and add a plethora of third-party services.

The vendor first hinted at this strategy, which it calls the RiOS Services Platform (RSP), during its fourth-quarter earnings call, describing a vague plan to add additional software to its Steelhead appliances.

With the launch of RiOS 5.0 today, Riverbed added flesh to the bones of RSP, which will eventually encompass a broad range of services.

"It's carving out a protected partition on the Steelhead appliance so that customers can run additional applications and services from other software vendors," explains Harold Byun, Riverbed's senior product marketing manager.

First up are a file-and-print service developed by Riverbed, a streaming media offering from Wowza Media, and in the near future, an IP address management service from Infoblox."We're [also] in development with Secure Computing," says Byun, explaining that a security service based on the vendor's Unified Threat Management (UTM) technology will be offered sometime this year.

Future offerings will include authentication services for the likes of Active Directory, according to Byun. "This is the tip of the iceberg -- there will be several vendors adapting their code to write on this module," he says.

Available at the end of March, RiOS 5.0 is free for Riverbed customers with maintenance contracts, although there is a $495 fee to activate the RSP feature. Third-party software vendors will also charge an additional fee for their offerings, although these prices have not yet been released.

Riverbed is touting RSP as way for users to simplify administration and reduce hardware footprint, but there is another reason for boiling additional services into the RiOS operating system.

More and more vendors are now starting to offer Software as a Service (SaaS), placing even greater strain on users' already stretched network links. With SaaS wrestling for limited bandwidth with existing applications, users may need to rethink their WAN strategies.At least one user agrees that RSP could free up space for SaaS applications at a time when firms are looking to do more with limited bandwidth.

"Where I could see this would be in a small satellite office where you don't want to have to buy a server for file-and-print services, DNS services, that type of thing," says Mark Hetu, IS manager at Aiken, S.C.-based manufacturing firm AGY, which is testing RiOS 5.0.

"Any time that you can keep as much of that data at your end user site without having to come back to your hub, you're saving on bandwidth."

There has already been some movement from other vendors to tie additional services around WAN optimization, although these have often focused on routers. Last month, for example, Expand Networks announced plans to offer its WAN optimization solution on 3Com's Multi-Service Router.

Cisco has taken a similar approach, offering its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) technology as a solution on its Integrated Services Router (ISR), although this is also available as a standalone appliance.Riverbed rival Blue Coat, which offers its own security features and WAN optimization on its ProxySG devices, warned that baking additional third-party software into a product can bring risks and complications.

"Its always tricky, we believe, when you have products that run on top of other products," says Steve Schick, Blue Coat's marketing director. "You have separate management. You have separate policies -- [and] that's a dangerous thing you're doing, opening up your operating system."

In addition to RSP, other enhancements to RiOS 5.0 include support for Exchange 2007 and enhanced Web application acceleration for the likes of Oracle 11i, SAP, and SharePoint.

The ability to speed up these applications has struck a chord with AGY's Hetu, who relies heavily on Oracle ERP, both at his South Carolina HQ and his manufacturing facility in Huntingdon, Pa.

"This is a huge, huge, advantage for us -- with our remote manufacturing facility, everything has to go across the Wide Area [Network] for ERP," he says. "Anything that can speed up performance is a huge gain for us."Riverbed has also increased the number of network connections offered by its Steelhead 200, 300, 520, 1020, and 1520 devices by tweaking the RiOS software, as well as enhancing SSL acceleration and IPSec encryption.

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  • Blue Coat Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BCSI)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Expand Networks Inc.

  • Infoblox Inc.

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL)

  • Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD)

  • SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP)

  • Secure Computing Corp. (Nasdaq: SCUR)

  • 3Com Corp.

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