Riverbed Adds WAN Optimization Client

The Steelhead Mobile client gives road warriors and telecommutors easier access to centralized applications.

Riverbed Technology is tossing its WAN optimization hat into the client ring with its first software-based offering for road warriors and other remote workers.

The new Riverbed Steelhead Mobile client, announced July 26, delivers a performance boost for centralized applications accessed from individual laptops or desktops over a WAN connection. It is intended to help Riverbed customers by using its Steelhead application acceleration appliances in a central data center to improve the productivity of teleworkers or employees who travel often.

"Where you had to have two offices [and two Steelhead appliances] to make this work, were now opening up new opportunities for typical mobile workers, such as the executive on the road, the salesman, home users, small branch office users and even disaster relief personnel," said Apurva Dave, director of product marketing at Riverbed, in San Francisco.

The trends of server and data center consolidation, coupled with the increase in the number of remote workers, is causing a major productivity hit for many enterprises because of slower response times in accessing data.

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"Fifty percent of the workforce is mobile or remote, so you need optimization for people who work at home or where an appliance is not cost-effective," said Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa.

With Riverbed joining other companies—such as Citrix Systems, Blue Coat Systems, ICT and Cisco Systems—that have added "softWOCs" to their WAN optimization appliances, Skorupa projects that this year vendors will generate $90 million in client license revenue, and nearly double that to $175 million next year. At the same time, units will grow from 500,000 clients this year to more than a million in 2008, he said.

In a departure from some of those competitors, Riverbed will license its clients on a concurrent basis. Customers can buy a pool of licenses that a range of different users can access.

"When people need to use that technology, the software connects, asks if a license is available, and—if yes—they can use it. Other vendors license per user, so it can only run on the assigned individuals machine," said Dave.

Skorupa said Riverbeds license model will be adopted by all the vendors in the WAN optimization market because it "simply makes sense." As a result, the total number of softWOC users "could easily be 10 times the number of licenses sold," he said.

Beta testers at AccuVal Associates, which provides appraisal work for clients, were so pleased with the performance boost that the Mequon, Wisc. company plans to install it for all of its mobile users, according to Padmini Dhulipala, vice president of IT for AccuVal.

"Our end product is always a report," which can be as large as 60MB, she said. Because all of AccuVals file servers are centralized and most of its users work from the road, they would often work locally. "By the end of a project, you never knew if the file [on the server] was the last modified one." But with the Steelhead Mobile client, users will seem near LAN-like, she said.

"Its not a cheap product, but the benefit is so huge. We consider this to be the best IT investment weve made," she said.

The Riverbed Steelhead Mobile client implements the Riverbed Optimization System software. The full product includes the Windows-based client, a Steelhead Mobile Controller in the data center and the Steelhead data center appliance. The Mobile Controller manages the deployment, reporting and licensing for the client software.

"The controller sits off to the side, manages everything and allows the IT administrator to do reporting, and it does monitoring of the client," said Dave. The client component takes up 7 Mbytes on the laptop or desktop.

The average cost per user is $87. The Mobile Controller can support up to 2,000 concurrent connections and is priced at $12,995, which includes 30 concurrent usage licenses.

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