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Riverbed Optimizes WANs for Apple Macs

The Apple Macintosh operating system is becoming found more widely in enterprise computing environments. With the increased Mac usage comes the need to bring Macs into the network optimization fold, which is what WAN optimization vendor Riverbed is doing with in its new RiOS (Riverbed Operating System) 6.0 release.

RiOS is the underlying operating system for Riverbed's (NASDAQ: RVBD) Steelhead WAN optimization appliances. With it, a variety of different types of network traffic -- including file sharing, application and SSL traffic -- can be optimized and accelerated.

The OS last received a major update with version 5.5 in October 2008. Now, the new release comes as the overall WAN optimization market is continuing to grow. In 2008, the WAN optimization market generated over $1 billion in revenue.

"We're continuing to be more pervasive and more relevant to customers by reaching new types of client platform," Nik Rouda, senior product marketing manager at Riverbed, told InternetNews.com. "One thing we've added in RiOS 6.0 is support for file sharing optimizations for Macintosh clients. The reason we've done that is we've seen Macs generally become much more common in the workplace."

Rouda also said Mac users are a vocal bunch, and they are demanding the same performance from their IT environments that their peers are now getting.

Additionally, he noted that certain types of customers rely on Macs, including designers and media professionals, and the nature of the files they work with often tend to be some of the biggest multimedia files.

Using the RiOS 6.0 optimizations, Rouda said that those Mac users will get better performance for their file transfers.

"We've seen customers get 60-times speed-up for file sharing on Mac clients," Rouda said. "So if you think about it, if it took an hour to share a video file before now, it will take only one minute."

RiOS 6.0 does not include any specific optimization for Linux or Unix clients, though Rouda noted they too can benefit. He explained that RiOS over the last several releases has had a number of optimizations that could help, focusing on TCP/IP traffic optimization as well as helping to reduce network latency.

Citrix remote desktop users will also get a boost with the RiOS 6.0 release. Rouda said that Citrix desktops are now accelerated with approximately 50 percent extraneous data reduction.

The general idea behind the feature is that repetitive items can be cached by a Riverbed appliance, rather than having multiple requests for the same data traverse the entire network.

Also, RiOS includes features that can enable Citrix users to have faster response times for screen refresh and other key user-experience items.

Accelerating Citrix is not a technology that is unique to Riverbed. Multiple WAN optimization vendors including Blue Coat, F5, Cisco and even Citrix itself all have products in the market to accelerate Citrix remote desktops.

In May, at the Interop conference, multiple vendors debated who could best accelerate Citrix. At the time, Citrix's spokesperson said that Citrix itself has better visibility into the ICA (Citrix's format for its virtual desktop) and has better granular control.

But with RiOS 6.0, Riverbed's Rouda noted that his company has focused on making Citrix ICA optimization easier to deploy. Rouda also said that RiOS optimizations are more efficient than the native Citrix protocols.

One key feature that Riverbed is still working on integrating involves improving overall visibility into network application traffic. In January, Riverbed acquired traffic visualization vendor Mazu for $25 million. Rouda noted that since then, there has been one new release of the Mazu Cascade visualization platform, but another is coming soon.

"We have another release of Cascade coming out in the near future and that does have some specific integrations with Riverbed Steelhead appliances," Rouda said. "That will provide customers with more visibility and more understanding of what is happening with WAN optimization as well as native networks."