Riverbed delivers new optimization software

Riverbed Technology Monday announced a new version of software for its WAN optimization devices. The Riverbed Optimization System, or RiOS software, which entered Version 3.0 Monday, makes it easier for network administrators to get quality-of-service (QOS) data about their networks.

The San Francisco-based company makes the Steelhead line of WAN optimization appliances. In addition to the new version of the Riverbed software and of the Central Management Console software, the company is also announcing some larger models in its hardware family.

New features in Version 3.0 include optimization improvements for Network File System streaming and for Common Internet File Services (CIFS). According to Eric Wolford, senior vice president of marketing and business development, the NFS improvements can result in performance improvements up to 55 times previous speeds, and those to CIFS can improve the speed for collaborative applications up to 20 times. Eric Siegel, an analyst at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group, singled out acceleration of a notably inefficient older version of NFS as good news for Unix administrators.

But the QOS improvements are the ones that excited beta users. "It pretty much eliminates the need for IP rules and QOS rules on Cisco routers," said Ben Weinberger, director of IT for Ruden McClosky Smith Schuster & Russell PA. The new version of the software now lets him give higher priority to applications that are sensitive to latency. Latency-sensitive applications in use at the firm include videoconferencing, which the attorneys are using to work on documents together, and voice over IP, which the organization is testing, said Weinberger, who works in the Fort Lauderdale office of the Florida-based law firm.

Ray Sirois, IT manager for Wright-Pierce, a Topsham, Maine-based engineering firm with 130 employees, said the Steelheads with the new software have accelerated his WAN traffic to LAN speeds, and they are reporting all the statistical information he needs. The company has equipped its five New England offices with Steelheads and has been able to move to a centralized data model because of them, he said.

Jon Wilson, senior network engineer at Electroimpact, a facility that manufactures airline parts for companies such as Boeing and Airbus, also praised the product's newly customizable network performance reports. Previously, the software provided only canned reports, he said.

Wilson also noted improvements in file-transfer performance. He cites an impromptu test involving a 5GB file he refers to as "my bellwether": With the previous version of the software, transferring the file to the company's U.K. office could take more than an hour. With the new version, he says, it takes a minute and a half to two minutes. The difference allowed him to decommission an in-house disk mirroring system he no longer needs, he said.

Riverbed, which filed IPO documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission in April, also announced two higher-end Steelhead devices this week, as well as the Interceptor 9200, which is essentially a Steelhead router, Wolford said. The Steelhead 5520 supports up to 15,000 simultaneous TCP connections, has a disk capacity of 1.5TB and can provide optimized bandwidth of up to 155Mbit/sec. with disk de-duplication enabled and 800Mbit/sec. with disk de-duplication disabled. The Steelhead 6020 supports up to 40,000 simultaneous TCP connections, has a disk capacity of 3.2TB and can provide optimized bandwidth of up to 310Mbit/sec. with disk de-duplication enabled and 800Mbit/sec. with disk de-duplication disabled. The Interceptor 9200 supports up to a million simultaneous TCP connections and up to 4Gbit/sec. of optimized WAN throughput.

All the announced products are available this week. The Steelhead 5520 costs US$69,996. The Steelhead 6020 costs US$119,995. Central Management Console software starts at US$5,000. The Interceptor 9200 costs US$49,995.

Brian Garrett, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, praised the product lines' scalability. With the new release, Riverbed now has hardware platforms that can serve companies requiring minimal WAN capacity of 1Mbit/sec. and 25 TCP connections, ranging up to systems serving enterprises requiring an impressive 4Gbit/sec. and 1,000,000 optimized TCP connections, he said.

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