On Tuesday WAN-optimization specialist Riverbed Technology announced that it is acquiring Zeus Technology for $110 million in a move designed to round out Riverbed’s portfolio in the area of application performance. Riverbed’s technology is important in helping speed the transmission of data across wide-area networks, but there also are performance benefits to be had at the application level, which is where Zeus fits in.
Riverbed also purchased web-content-acceleration startup Aptimize for an undisclosed amount.
Ultimately, it looks like Riverbed decided that WAN optimization alone won’t let it stay competitive in the cloud. If customers want better performance as they both consume and deliver more types of applications via the web, they need help at the network and application levels.
Riverbed has been taking application performance very seriously lately, especially as it relates to cloud computing. In May, it partnered with Akamai to speed the delivery of enterprise web applications, which should prove particularly helpful as companies build out geographically distributed clouds, or even just more branch offices, and as adoption of virtual desktops picks up. By using Akamai’s intelligent CDN software within Riverbed’s appliances, customers can ensure the fastest-possible route across the web and to the user.
However, companies also can achieve significant performance improvements by optimizing the application infrastructure itself. Zeus has a suite of application-acceleration and application-management products that fall under its Elastic Application Delivery umbrella, including a very popular load balancer. Zeus’ load-balancing prowess landed it on our recent Structure 50 list, actually, as leading cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and Joyent all utilize Zeus’ technology to boost performance for their clouds.
In a press release announcing the purchase, Riverbed highlights the software-based nature of Zeus’ products:
Zeus approached product development differently by architecting a software-based [application delivery controller]. As a software-based solution, the Zeus vADC has many advantages over its hardware-originated peers: it is better suited for virtual and cloud environments, it can migrate across environments, and it can scale on demand.
Eric Wolford, the SVP of marketing and business development at Riverbed, told me that Zeus’ cloud-provider footprint and virtual ADC were very appealing because that market segment is predicted to grow much faster than the traditional ADC space. He also noted that what Zeus really brings is the ability to accelerate new types of asymmetric applications, such as e-commerce or other customer-serving web applications. They’re called asymmetric because there aren’t appliances like Riverbed’s Steelhead appliance at both ends to boost performance, which means all the work is done on the application provider’s end.
Somewhat lost in the shadow of the Zeus deal is the Aptimize acquisition. Aptimize describes its flagship product thusly:
Aptimize Website Accelerator (WAX) is an ISAPI filter for Microsoft IIS, or a Daemon module for Linux Apache. It automates performance tuning by dynamically optimizing web pages for performance at runtime – just before a page is sent from web server to browser.
Aptimize CEO Ed Robinson recently wrote a guest post for GigaOM explaining the market in which his company plays, one that might also be said to include CDN-based players such as Limelight, Yottaa and Cotendo.
Wolford said Riverbed’s main competition remains the same — Cisco and Citrix, primarily — although it has added F5 Networks on the ADC front. It will be interesting to see whether greater market consolidation follows Riverbed’s big play, as there are startups like Aryaka and Infineta waiting in the wings with interesting technologies. And Cisco, of course, could buy Citrix and/or F5 as it looks to reorganize around its strengths.
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