Riverbed buys two to fight F5, Citrix
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Riverbed Technology is gearing up to take on F5 Networks and Citrix Systems Inc. by making two acquisitions.
The company said Wednesday that it will buy Zeus Technology for US $110 million to gain software that that offloads tasks from Web servers and load balancers and that runs on off-the-shelf server, and Aptimize Limited, which makes software that optimizes Web content.

Eventually Riverbed hopes to integrate the two technologies into a single product that would speed up Web applications and Web servers by sitting between them and the Internet or corporate WANs.

This differs from Riverbed’s existing WAN optimization business in that its gear requires a device at both ends of connections in order to shape traffic and reduce the number of bytes it takes to conduct sessions across the WAN.

The new products have a different goal – speeding up traffic between servers and random client machines – and only one device is required, sitting at the data-center end of connections. Riverbed calls this asymmetric optimization and plans to form a business around it.

This is new territory for Riverbed, putting it in competition with well established application delivery vendors such as F5 and Citrix and with Web-page accelerators such as Strangeloop Networks’ Site Optimizer.

Zeus itself bought a Web application firewall vendor – Art of Defence – earlier this year. Zeus was already selling the Art of Defence software as an add-on module for its Zeus Traffic Manager ADC. The company has been getting more and more demand for the application firewall module, driven by businesses handling credit card transactions trying to comply with PCI/DSS standards.

 
An industry analyst says he understand the theory of the Zeus acquistion — to create an end-to-end optimization solution — he’s skeptical it can be done. “Cisco (Systems Inc.), Juniper (Networks), Citrix and F5 have all tried that and haven’t been able to make the case you need to buy a WAN optimization and your application delivery control from the same company,” said  Zeus Kerravala, vice-president of enterprise research at the Yankee Group.
 
On the other hand, he added, “the advantage Riverbed has this time is that cloud (computing) is on the horizon.” Riverbed’s ability to get virtualize application delivery control and WAN optimization and offer it to a cloud provider may be the missing link other manufacturers couldn’t take advantage of.
 
“There’s a lot of potential there,” he said. “If there’s one thing Riverbed has shown over the years,” he added, “they are an execution machine.”
 
(With files by Howard Solomon, Network World Canada)