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Riverbed Steps on SSL Gas

Will add SSL traffic to its WAN optimization story next week

Could SSL data be the next big thing in WAN optimization? Riverbed hopes so. Next week, it will announce an upgrade of its RiOS WAN optimization software in an attempt to speed up SSL encrypted data. (See WAN Optimization Heats Up and WAN Optimization Inches On.)

Riverbed, which recently recorded its first quarter of profitability, is looking to tap into users' ongoing fear about data security with the release of new software for its Steelhead appliances. (See The Year of Data Protection, Users Look Ahead to 2007, VA Reports Massive Data Theft, and Portable Problems Prompt IT Spending.)

Typically, users are looking to encrypt data on financial applications such as SAP, Siebel, and Hyperion, as well as document management tools such as Vignette. (See Oracle Hops on Hyperion, SAP Turns to Brocade, and Oracle Buys Siebel.)

At least one analyst agrees that users are focusing more attention on encrypted data at the moment. "SSL traffic is not going down at all -- there's more and more traffic being encrypted all the time," says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. "I think that the ability to handle SSL will become one of the top features these [WAN optimization] products will have."

Riverbed is not the first WAN optimization vendor to focus its attention on SSL traffic; Blue Coat Systems also speeds up encrypted data, but is taking a different approach.

Blue Coat copies SSL certificates to its branch office SG devices in order to speed up SSL traffic, unlike Riverbed, which stores SSL certificates in a centrally located Steelhead appliance. "With Riverbed, the certificate is stored on one site -- at the data center," says Apurva Davé, Riverbed's director of product marketing.

When the Riverbed devices need to speed up SSL encrypted data, the central Steelhead issues a temporary SSL key to the branch office device. The idea is that IT managers no longer need to install certificates right across their infrastructure. "Firms could have thousands of branch offices so that makes the administrator's life easier," says Kerravala.

Other WAN optimization vendors are also looking at SSL encrypted data. Both Juniper and Expand Networks, for example, told Byte and Switch that the technology is on their roadmaps, but neither would say when it will be generally available.

A New York-based systems engineer in a media firm, who asked not to be named, told Byte and Switch that RiOS 4.0 has let him centralize a number of in-house multimedia applications. Before deploying the software upgrade, he explains, concerns about network security forced him to install the applications in both his central data center and his regional sites.

The engineer hopes that this will open the door to "significant" cost savings by reducing his expenditure on Web servers at his regional sites, although he wants to see more enhancements from Riverbed in the future.

RiOS 4.0, for example, lets users set up two Steelheads side-by-side in a data center and share cached data from an appliance in a remote site to speed up data transfer, although the engineer wants more. "Making cached data replicated to more than two Steelheads would give me the ability to handle more throughput," he says. "Now, with two of Riverbed's larger units side-by-side, it can handle what we need, but, two years from now it won't be able to."

RiOS 4.0, which also includes enhanced TCP optimization, is available now at no extra cost to users with current Riverbed licenses.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Blue Coat Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BCSI)
  • Expand Networks Inc.
  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)
  • Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD)
  • Yankee Group Research Inc.


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