Riverbed lets loose Stingray virty appliances

Traffic manager, content optimizer, and firewall swim together


In the wake of its acquisitions of Zeus Technology and Aptimize back in July, WAN optimization appliance maker Riverbed Technology has tweaked three software appliances for speeding up and securing cloudy applications to complement its Steelhead appliances.

The new Stingray products are being synchronized to the 8.0 release and include a number of enhancements. But the important thing, says Naveen Prabhu, senior product marketing manager at Riverbed, is that the three tools that came to Riverbed from Zeus and Aptimize now have a consistent look and feel, can work with each other, and have utility-style pricing that is more consistent with Riverbed's products.

Stingray Traffic Manager 8.0 is what we used to call Zeus Traffic Manager, the traffic shaping and load balancing software that was the big moneymaker at British software house Zeus Technology before it was acquired.

After dabbling with hardware appliances a few years back, Zeus went all-virtual, shipping Traffic Manager in an x86-based VM container that could ride atop ESXi, Xen, Hyper-V, and KVM hypervisors. One change with the Stingray Traffic Manager 8.0 release is that Riverbed is allowing customers to install the tool on a bare-metal Linux server instead of a virtual machine, allowing it to eat all the capacity on an x86 server if that is what customers want. Note: If you want to run Traffic Manager on Hyper-V, you have to run it atop a Linux guest OS.

Traffic Manager 8.0 comes in three models – the 1000, 2000, and 4000 series – with low, medium, high, and very high throughput bands within the series having gradually increasing capability and a price that scales with it. The smallest 1000 series configuration is geared back to 10 Mbit/sec to 1 Gb/sec of throughout and throttled down to handling 1,000 SSL transactions per second; it has only the core functionality of load balancing, compression, and caching plus the new scripting capability that Riverbed added to the appliance. Prices range from $5,500 to $14,500.

The 2000 series of the Traffic Manager has throughput rated 1 Gb/sec to 5 Gb/sec and from 10,000 to unlimited SSL transactions per second; it also includes more advanced scripting capabilities and costs from $21,500 to $40,500. The 4000 series has from 10 Gb/sec to unlimited throughput, no governors on SSL performance, and the advanced set of functions for between $49,500 to $63,500. You can use the golden screwdriver to do an upgrade from one model of the Traffic Manager to another and then pay the differential price to Riverbed. You can also buy the software on a subscription basis, with fees as low as $200 per month, if you don't want to buy a perpetual license to Traffic Manager.

Stingray Application Firewall 8.0, which runs in standalone mode on Linux or within a VMware ESXi hypervisor guest partition, is available in the 1000, 2000, and 4000 series as well, with pricing ranging from $10,500 through to $25,500. The firewall is integrated with the traffic manager and is itself managed from inside of it.

Stingray Aptimizer 8.0 is what was formerly known as Website Accelerator, or WAX. It was created by New Zealand software developer Aptimize to rejigger and accelerate web pages running on IIS or Apache web servers as well as pages stored on content delivery networks from Akamai Technologies. Aptimizer analyzes how web pages load and reorganizes the content so a web browser doesn't have to make so many roundtrips back to the web server to load a page. Because there are dozens of elements on a typical page, reconfiguring the web pages on the fly and storing the more efficient web page in cache on the web server can reduce page load times by a factor of four. The beauty is that this optimization does not change the web applications one bit, so you don't have to modify your code.

One interesting bit: The well-regarded and for-fee Zeus Web Server is not long for this world. As Prabha put it, people no longer want to pay for web servers.

Riverbed is making Stingray Aptimizer 8.0 available as a plugin for Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration server as well as a plugin for custom web sites. In either case, it is deployed as a server filter. With SharePoint, it is priced with a server component and then a per-seat license that starts at $15 per seat and goes down as the volumes go up. On custom websites, Riverbed is pricing the Stingray Aptimizer based on the number of page views per second it handles. Exactly what that charge is was not made clear. ®


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