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Riverbed: cloud data storage products will come 'from the ashes' of Atlas

I had a brief conversation last week with Ed Chapman, Riverbed’s VP of cloud storage acceleration products, hired away from Cisco in May. Chapman (and senior vice president of marketing and business development Eric Wolford, who chimed in frequently) stopped short of divulging much detail on the planned Cloud Storage Accelerator product, but did offer some new information about its origins…

What are the goals for Riverbed’s cloud business this year?

Wolford: We haven’t launched yet, but we told our user group about the Cloud Storage Accelerator that Ed is going to head up getting to market. It’s a bit of a phoenix from the ashes of Atlas in part, and Steelhead in part, and some new development, in part. I don’t want you to think it’s the same product [as Atlas]– we took key components from that product and put them into the Cloud Storage Accelerator, to sit in the data center and accelerate access to AT&T Synaptic Storage, Amazon S3, etc.

While Riverbed’s working on its cloud product, other vendors like Nasuni, TwinStrata and StorSimple are already out in the market selling cloud storage gateway appliances to interface securely – and in some cases with deduplication features – with the cloud. How does Riverbed plan to differentiate its cloud product against those offerings?

Chapman: We are not going after the same market segments they’re going after. We’re going after a focused market segment that we think is more applicable in the marketplace. Just to give you a viewpoint of what customers are looking for in general, if you look at the application of new storage technologies in the market, it sort of follows a hierarchy…[users say] ‘maybe I’ll use this for backup’… then archive…then they look at all the rest, including primary storage. What we’ve heard from our customers that we’ve spoken to, they want to utilize cloud storage infrastructure in the same sort of mechanism, backup and archive and then going down the rest of the hierarchy from a storage perspective. Our goal looking at the marketplace is to leverage things our customers will want to leverage and utilize first, along the parameters of backup and archive rather than primary storage filer replacement.

Doesn’t Riverbed already allow replication to cloud services for DR? How is this different from that?

Wolford: Well…we’re just going to have to wait.

Similarly, EMC and other vendors are working on systems like VPlex and Atmos, which they claim can replicate data at scale among data centers, with little mention of WAN optimization technology as a necessary component of the infrastructure. Do those products represent a threat to Riverbed’s market? What would your role be in that environment?

Wolford: We’ll help them. The parallel I would make is that when cloud first came out, nobody mentioned WAN optimization. Nobody mentioned, ‘we have this great product but unfortunately, it has this problem.’ Any time users have distance between them and their data they have a problem. There’s been a trend toward consolidation in remote offices and data centers – the cloud is a variant of that reality.The more that reality occurs, we are just lovin’ it because it spotlights the performance problem.

Chapman: EMC has been selling SRDF and SRDF/A and never said WAN optimization is needed, but we just won EMC Select Channel Partner of the Year because we could be used as the primary WAN optimization tool with SRDF/A. So my point there is while EMC talks and launches VPlex and talks about distributed cacheing — and I think it’s a fabulous technology — that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be able to add a lot of value to it the way we have with SRDF, SRDF/A and other technology used for replication.

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