There are a lot of specializations in the land of IT. Some of them are a little more artificial than others, but to one degree or another they help solution providers differentiate various services. But as IT becomes increasingly complex, it’s clear that additional tiers of computing are bringing new performance pressures to bear on just about every facet of enterprise computing.
For example, the introduction of cloud computing services puts pressure on network latency. Nothing exacerbates storage I/O issues more than virtualization and data center consolidation. And just ask any user of a mobile computing application what they think of the performance being provided by their Internet service provider. What all this adds up to is that there is a crisis starting to build surrounding almost anything that has to do with IT performance.
Against that backdrop it’s interesting to watch Riverbed Technology transform itself. The company made its name providing wide area network (WAN) optimization appliances. Arguably, this was a niche market until the advent of cloud computing and virtualization, which suddenly put a premium on the performance attributes.
Riverbed parlayed that technology into the delivery of appliances that specifically accelerated access to secondary cloud storage, and now the company is bringing to market Riverbed Granite, an extension to its Steelhead family of WAN optimization appliances that allow IT organizations to consolidate branch office gear by accelerating block-based writes to storage systems over the WAN. Granite should help drive another wave of data center consolidations; especially for applications that previously were thought to be too latency sensitive to not be hosted on local branch office servers. And just too make performance matters a little more interesting, Riverbed also inked an alliance with Akamai Technologies through which the management of WAN optimization services in the enterprise can converge with the network optimization services provided by the Akamai content delivery network.
Carolyn Crandall, Riverbed vice president of marketing, says these advances mean is that the Riverbed value proposition is moving beyond the network manager level to embrace classic CIO-level issues such as meeting the requirements spelled out in various service level agreements (SLAs). As such, she is advising Riverbed channel partners to elevate the conversation with customers in ways that focus on SLA issues that are driving what Riverbed says will be a $10 billion market oportunity.
Instead of focusing their efforts solely on network managers concerned about speeds and feeds, Crandall says Riverbed is evolving into a provider of a suite of performance optimization platforms that collectively allow IT organizations to aggressively consolidate IT infrastructure without compromising application performance. To that end, Riverbed this week revised its channel program to make it more profitable for partners if they sell multiple Riverbed platforms to the same customer.
Despite all the focus these days on cloud and mobile computing, it won’t long now before IT organizations begin to focus again on fundamental issues relating to performance. The debates about the merit of cloud computing in particular are coming to close, which means the next task as hand is going to be to figure out how to implement cloud computing. But moving an application to a new platform in the cloud is one thing; doing it in a way that doesn’t compromise SLA commitments is another thing all together.