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Akamai, Riverbed join forces to juice clouds

App acceleration marries WAN optimization

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There's gold in them thar clouds – which is why Akamai Technologies and its global content-delivery network, and Riverbed Technology, the top dog in the WAN-optimization appliance racket, are teaming up to converge their respective products into a cloud optimizer, hoping to snag some of that cloudy gelt by accelerating application performance.

The details are a bit sketchy because Akamai and Riverbed are still working it all out, but in a partnership announced on Tuesday, the two companies will begin cross-pollinating and integrating their respective technologies to create a global network that combines the 90,000 servers in the distributed Akamai network with the 150,000 Steelhead appliances sold by Riverbed into a giant virtual app-acceleratin', WAN-optimizin' appliance.

Don't get the wrong idea. Riverbed and Akamai are not going to use your Steelhead appliance without your permission - that's the kind of thing Google or Apple might do.

Akamai's network is scattered around the globe with the goal of making a hop from an end user no more than 10 milliseconds away from one of its data centers, where the network caches web content and otherwise accelerates the performance of web-based applications on behalf of its customers.

That caching network is used by more than 3,100 customers worldwide who generated more than $1bn in revenues for Akamai in 2010. Somewhere between 15 and 25 per cent of all web traffic passes through the Akamai network on any given day, the company's vice president of application and site acceleration Willie Tejada tells El Reg. The trouble is, Akamai can only accelerate the parts of the internet outside the corporate firewall, and cannot be used on private clouds.

Riverbed, which had in excess of $500m in sales last year and which has 13,000 customers, similarly can provide WAN optimization to speed up applications being served to remote offices from data centers – but it only works where there is a physical or virtual machine present on both ends of the wire running the Steelhead WAN-optimization software.

To make a universal solution that can span both public and private clouds, Akamai and Riverbed are going to take their respective optimization programs, prop them up on virtual machines, and load them onto each other's respective gear.

Riverbed's Steelhead software will be put out onto the Akamai network so you can optimize the WAN between your internal Steelhead appliance and the Akamai distributed network, which might in turn have caching and optimization back to a SaaS or PaaS cloud provider.

Conversely, Akamai's content-delivery caching and application-acceleration programs will be virtualized so they can be run on the Steelhead appliances. This will bring Akamai's network edge from nearby the data center to inside the firewall, much as the Riverbed software will be brought closer to cloudy service providers.

Tejada points out that cloud providers tend to have only a few locations where they globally serve infrastructure or apps – usually one or two spots in the United States, one in Europe, and another in Asia. (California, Virginia, Ireland, and Singapore are popular options.) That's not enough coverage, according to Akamai and Riverbed, because of the latencies between where users are sitting and where the applications are running.

"We think this partnership is going to hasten the adoption of SaaS applications," boasts Tejada. "When an application performs like it is local, then companies will not be making a buying decision based on where a data center is located."

Development efforts for the converged Akamai and Riverbed products are underway now, and Apurva Dave, Riverbed's vice president of product marketing, says that the two would offer cooperative support for the product as well as do joint marketing and sales. The product, which is as yet unnamed, will come out in early 2012 if all goes according to plan, says Dave. ®

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