Riverbed seeks more Canadian users for app acceleration products

A San Francisco-based manufacturer of application acceleration products is setting up shop in Canada, home of its first customer.

Riverbed Technology Inc., which makes the Steelhead line of wide-area network optimization appliances, has opened an office in Mississauga, Ont. with two employees.

“It’s funny that we’re officially doing our Canada launch right around now, when in fact Riverbed’s first customer ever was from Canada,” said Apurva Dave, Riverbed’s director of product marketing.

He added when the company was founded in 2002, a Canadian government department, which he would not name, approached the company asking about its application acceleration products. “Unsolicited, they called us up and heard about what we were doing, and said, ‘We want to buy your product,’ before we even had it on the market.”

The Steelhead appliances are designed to improve the performance of applications operating between branch offices and centralized data centres for up to a million users.

Dave claims the product has better scalability than anything else on the market. Competitors may claim their products are even more scalable, but Riverbed’s products are the most scalable, when measured by the number of users they are supporting in live installations, said Joe Skorupa, research vice-president for enterprise network services and infrastructure at the Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group.

“They certainly can claim they have the largest, most scalable implementations in existence,” Skorupa said, despite the fact that competitors could claim their products are more scalable in a lab test.

“Until you put it in a real live customer network, you just don’t know,” Skorupa said. “Architecture is great, but implementation has a lot to do with it. A good architecture with superb implementation may beat the living daylights out of a perfect architecture with a flawed implementation, and until you get it in the field, you just don’t know.”

The Steelhead appliances reduce the delay – also known as latency – of application queries over wide-area networks, and are therefore popular among companies with remote offices that rely on satellite links, said Steven Flowers, Riverbed’s Mississauga-based regional sales manager. Flowers said one Riverbed customer – a large nickel producer which the vendor will not publicly identify – was faced with spending tens of thousands of dollars per month on a satellite link, but opted to buy a Steelhead instead, and was able to increase network capacity by a factor of four.

“Their return on investment was under a month,” Dave said. “All of a sudden they were able to do their backups over the wide-area-network, over their satellite link.”

Skorupa said application acceleration products are becoming more popular with companies relying on satellite networks. Compression and protocol spoofing have been done over satellite links for 20 years, but Riverbed has more advanced forms of compression, he said. “It’s a very attractive technology for folks who use satellites because of the high latency and the very expensive and very limited bandwidth,” Skorupa said. “The return on investment can be today, or very short -– a matter of months.”

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