Riverbed: We Are Innovating at the Fastest Rate in WAN Optimization Market

Anil Batra, MD, Riverbed Technology, India, on the company’s hot new growth areas, and how it’s beating back new wanna-be’s and old players.

Radhika Nallayam Sep 17th 2012

Your recent acquisition of Zeus Technology and Aptimize puts you in direct competition with established vendors in the application delivery space like F5 and Citrix. How do you position Riverbed, given its traditional focus on WAN optimization?

Batra: It is true that we started out with a WAN optimization offering and it remains our flagship product. However, like any other company, we’ve gradually brought in adjacent technologies to create a platform. Our platform enables infrastructures to be optimized, drives applications to perform better, and delivers apps in the right manner. We also focus on application firewalls, web-content optimization, and application-aware network performance management

Riverbed is a performance platform company. Yes, we did begin with WAN optimization, but that was just a part of the performance enhancement portfolio. In our continuing conversation with the customer, it was very evident that there was a need to have a performance platform that would take care of a lot of other things. As a result, we looked at what we should have as a set of competencies, and obviously the virtual ADC is a growing area. If the appliance-based ADC market is growing at 15 percent, then the growth rate of the virtual ADC market is more than 40 percent. With the Zeus acquisition, we became the leader in the virtual ADC space. Aptimize, which is a web-content optimization company, further enhances this portfolio.

The companies that you mentioned are in different areas, but we encompass the whole platform. Besides, we are the only player that focuses on virtual ADCs. The market is, otherwise, appliance-based. According to industry reports, the virtual ADC market will grow at a fast rate, considering the current consolidation scenario in the datacenter.

Do you already have customers in India for your virtual ADC?

Batra: We have a few customers for our application delivery offerings in India, and we see good prospects at this time. We are looking at customers of all sizes, across verticals.

The WAN optimization market, a Riverbed stronghold, is seeing new entrants like Silver Peak. Is your monopoly being threatened?

Batra: For the last four years we have been right at the top in this market. There are always going to be new companies, even as a few of the existing players exit the market. There is always that churn in this market. But we continue to maintain a 50-percent market share worldwide. We are focused on R&D and building new features into our products. We are innovating at a faster rate than anybody else in this market. And we believe that we are taking care of the customer’s needs better than anybody else.

In general, the enterprise approach to WAN optimization still seems rather tactical. What’s the scene in India and how many organizations have taken a holistic approach?

Batra: I don’t think organizations have taken an ad hoc approach to WAN optimization. I think it’s well thought-out. But it could be implemented in phases. If an organization has 1,000 locations, for example, they may not implement WAN optimization at all locations in one go. The critical ones get priority, and then they expand further. Most of organizations that have a comprehensive IT infrastructure in place will have a thought-out approach to WAN optimization.

Players like Blue Coat, who now compete with you in the asymmetric WAN optimization space, talk extensively about integrating security features into WAN optimization and of security being a differentiator. What’s your security pitch?

Batra: When we bought the company called Mazu Networks, which is now called Cascade (a Riverbed product), it was essentially a security product. We transformed it into an application-aware platform.  The fact that we can go down to a particular computer and see what application has been used and which server is responding, are all things that we do because we have security features in our products. The other thing that we have is the application firewall, which is virtual and can thus be easily integrated with applications.

It should be easy for Cisco, which dominates the core networking market, to break into most enterprises with an optimization strategy. What do you think?

Batra: Customers are very discerning, and they know what they want. They are very knowledgeable. Most of the technologies today are sold based on proof of concepts (PoC). When a customer does a PoC with us—and with some of our competitors—they definitely observe a difference. Customers make a decision based on what they see and not on what they are told.

Do you see migration from competing brands?

Batra: Plenty. We do every day. We like to call it ‘boomerang’ because the customer comes back to us.

The cloud definitely seems like a driver for your business. Tell us about your partnership with Akamai.

Batra: We, along with Akamai, built the Steelhead Cloud accelerator, to accelerate SaaS applications. The path optimization is done by Akamai, whereas we take care of the application acceleration part. We have not had any customers for this offering as of now, as this was lunched just a few months ago.

You announced some changes to the Riverbed Partner Network (RPN) program recently. Can you tell us about it?

Batra: We introduced our technology authorization path (TAP), which allows partners to recognize their strengths and access training in that area. This makes a partner quite knowledgeable in an area they want to focus on. As a result, productivity increases and the partner is able talk to his customers more effectively. Since TAP calls for some investments from the partner’s side, we assure them of additional benefits in terms of better margins, incentives and rebates. Feedback from our VARs has been phenomenal so far.

Do you see a clear trend towards opex, since you have partnerships with all the major telecom service providers apart from your traditional channel?

Batra: We have service provider partners who provide managed services to customers—Reliance Communications, Tata Communications, Airtel, AT&T, Orange and a few others. They cater to customers who opt for the opex model. However, there are a lot of customers who are still quite interested in capex, because they can depreciate it over time and reduce their opex. So I think both models will grow in the future, which is why we work very closely with our global and Tier-1 SIs and also with our growing network of VARs.

There’s always going to be new companies. But we are innovating faster than anybody else in this market. And we’re taking care of the customer better than anybody else.