Riverbed boosts cloud services

Riverbed is launching two new products that can make cloud services faster by accelerating traffic and also more economical by reducing corporate data center and storage costs.

The first product, called Cloud Steelhead, is a version of the Riverbed's Steelhead WAN acceleration appliance with add-ons that make it possible to quickly optimize traffic to and from cloud providers' data centers without requiring reconfiguration of corporate or provider networks, the company says.

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Optimized traffic makes applications run faster over restricted WAN connections, which makes it possible to place them in public cloud networks that are less expensive to use than building and operating private data centers, Riverbed says.

The second product, called Whitewater, is designed for use with cloud backup and archiving providers and translates storage protocols between corporate data centers and cloud-storage providers' data centers. It reduces the number of bytes it takes to store data within the cloud and also encrypts it so it can't be read while in transit or when it is actually stored, the company says.

Riverbed's Steelhead products require a device at both ends of WAN connections to reduce and optimize traffic via a variety of methods including compression, deduplication, TCP tuning, and application tweaking that reduces back-and-forth chatter.

If a cloud provider's data center – which is inherently virtualized and flexible – is at one end of the link, it is difficult to put a Steelhead in-line with the traffic. Steelhead software can be placed in virtual machines with the provider network, but it's not easy to set it up to receive accelerated traffic and de-optimize it so it can interact with virtual servers in the cloud.

Cloud Steelhead includes software called Discovery Agent that automatically seeks out a Riverbed management portal that is housed in Amazon's EC2 cloud network and sold as a service. The portal creates a logical link between a Steelhead device at a corporate site (or a Steelhead Mobile client on an individual computer) and the server being sought. The setup doesn't require any involvement by the service provider.

As virtual machines used by the customer move around within the provider's data center, the management platform maintains the connections, Riverbed says.

Customers can go to the portal, buy another Cloud Steelhead instance, configure it and have it deployed to their cloud within minutes, the company says.

Pricing for Cloud Steelhead is based on bandwidth, and starts at $250 for a 1Mbps link, Riverbed says.

Unlike Steelheads or Cloud Steelheads, Whitewater is installed just at the customer end of connections to cloud storage providers. Customers can't install a Steelhead within storage providers' data centers because they typically don't sell compute cycles as a service, Riverbed says.

The product, which will be sold as software or as a physical appliance, deduplicates traffic and encrypts it using AES 256 encryption. The device stores the encryption keys and returns the deduplicated stored data to its original form when it retrieves it from the cloud.

Because the deduplication makes for fewer bytes to store, the bill for storage space in the provider's data center is less than it would be otherwise. By translating the protocol used by corporate backup software to whatever is used by the cloud provider, Whitewater simplifies the connection to the cloud. It also reduces the time the backup takes.

Whitewater is compatible with EMC Atmos, AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service and Amazon S3.

There is enough intelligence in the Whitewater product to cache indexes and segments used to deduplicate the stored data, but should the device fail, the data could still be retrieved using another Whitewater.

Whitewater is sold in increments based on how many bytes of data wind up stored in the cloud. The cost of storing 1TB is $12,000, and the more terabytes a customer buys, the less it costs per terabyte, Riverbed says.

The new products are scheduled to be available by year-end.

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