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Riverbed rolls out application delivery controller for the cloud

Riverbed’s rebranding of the Zeus application delivery controller and Aptimize Web content optimization targets cloud networking.

The application delivery network is evolving as enterprises start to adopt cloud computing and need new methods for optimizing the delivery of Web content. Riverbed Technology’s rebranding of its recent application delivery network acquisitions of Zeus Technology and Aptimize reflect this trend.

This week Riverbed announced its Stingray family of products, which include the application delivery controller [ADC] and Web application firewall software gained through the Zeus acquisition, as well as Web content optimization software from the Aptimize acquisition. The rebranded technology comes along with a simplified process of acquiring, deploying and scaling the products, something essential for the rapid changes associated with cloud networking.

The Stingray Traffic Manager is a virtual ADC that can run on standard server hardware. Traditionally, enterprises have deployed ADCs in their data centers as hardware appliances, but cloud computing demands the elasticity of virtual appliances.

“The virtual appliance and software-based ADC market is only 7% of the total ADC market, but that’s a very fast growing sector,” said Jim Frey, research director at Enterprise Management Associates. “Deployment of software ADCs in cloud environments -- sending ADCs into the cloud along with servers and workload -- is a model of great interest.”

Hardware sales remain robust, too. F5 Networks, which continues to emphasize hardware ADCs over virtual appliances, reported this week 31% revenue growth to $1.15 billion for its just concluded 2011 fiscal year.

Before being acquired by Riverbed, Zeus was a leading provider of software-based ADCs; however, traditional vendors of hardware-based application delivery controllers have begun offering their own software-based products. These vendors include F5 Networks, Citrix Systems and Cisco Systems, Frey said.

“Hardware appliances are still the main choice because of the ability to optimize capacity and throughput and the ability to deploy things like SSL offloading, because servers get bogged down by SSL terminations,” Frey said.

Functions like SSL offloading can be challenging on standard server hardware for a virtual application delivery controller like Stingray, Frey said. Some Zeus have used specialized hardware configuration for this, using a third party SSL offload card, he said.

In cloud networking, virtual ADC users who have requirements for advanced capabilities like SSL offloading will have to work closely with cloud providers to ensure that ADC instances are deployed on recommended hardware.

“We’re not going to switch overnight [to software],” said Jim Metzler, vice president with consultancy Ashton, Metzler and Associates. “There are hardware-based application delivery controllers in place, and people are not going to throw them away.”

But Metzler acknowledged that software-based ADCs will eventually perform on a similar level to hardware-based appliances. Before it was purchased by Riverbed, Zeus published results of independent lab testing of its software running on Cisco Unified Computing servers, which showed that its ADCs could achieve throughput of up to 19.3 Gbps. F5’s top ADCs are rated for 18 Gbps.

“Third-party tests don’t reflect anyone’s environments. You set up a lab and make certain assumptions. People would have to take a product like [Stingray] and try it in their own environment,” Metzler said.

Pricing and scaling aimed at fast deployments, cloud networking

The rebranding of the Zeus application delivery controllers as Stingray ADC includes a simplified pricing structure with license key upgrades that should help enterprises to rapidly deploy ADCs and scale them up and down for cloud networking.

“The old [Zeus] price list was very complex,” said Apurva Dave, vice president of product marketing for Riverbed. “Customers would have to tell sales reps what features they were interested in, and the reps had to go away and come back with a price. Customers want to quickly look at one price sheet and be able to see what’s right for their environment.”

In addition to simplifying the pricing scheme for throughput and SSL transactions per second with a simple license upgrade, Riverbed is also introducing subscription pricing for the Stingray products. Customers can now deploy a Stingray ADC for less than $200 a month.  Finally, the topline ADC version, the String 4000 VH Traffic Manager, has unlimited throughput and SSL transaction capacity, Dave said. Customers are only limited by the hardware they deploy the software on.

Stingray Web application firewall and Web content optimization

In addition to the Zeus rebranding, Riverbed has branded the Web content optimization software it acquired with Atpimize as Stingray Aptimizer. This software automatically rewrites HTML to optimize the delivery of Web content to end users. Riverbed hinted at further consolidation of the individual components in the Stingray portfolio.

 “Today [Aptimizer] is a standalone product and compatible with all the ADCs that are on the market,” said Dave. “Certainly our vision is to tie [Web content optimization and ADCs] closely together, and that’s the news we’ll announce at some point in the future.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Director.

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