There has been a relatively recent evolution in the way network infrastructures are designed to cater to the needs of delivering applications and services to branch offices. Zeus Kerravala from the Yankee Group recently posted a nice article on Network World where he discusses how WAN optimization was originally architected to address the performance of legacy "hub and spoke" network design.
Specifically, traditional WAN optimization is symmetrically deployed with a device on both end of the network connection and this worked well for applications that are delivered from the data center to the branch. Zeus argues that a new breed of single-ended or asymmetric WAN optimization technology is needed to address the rising needs of internet delivered applications. His argument is based on his understanding that there is no way to place a WAN optimization appliance in front of the application since the app resides in the cloud.
Zeus makes some great points and for most WAN optimization vendors his argument makes sense. Many WAN optimization vendors will need to figure out ways to optimize asymmetrically with a single device since as they have no way of getting their physical or even virtual appliance near where the cloud-based application resides.
This is where Riverbed is different. Earlier this year, Riverbed launched the Steelhead Cloud Accelerator. SCA is a groundbreaking product that was jointly developed by Riverbed and Akamai. With SCA, Riverbed customers can take their Riverbed Steelhead WAN optimization that resides in the branch office and/or data center and extend it to SaaS applications such as Office365, salesforce.com, and Google Apps. SCA is software that is installed on the existing Riverbed device in the branch and data center and using the Akamai network of more than 100,000 servers globally, a virtual Riverbed device is automatically spun up on the other side of the network connection near where the cloud application provider is located. The whole process is simple, seamless and the result is LAN-like performance for cloud based applications accessed by branch office or data center users. Below is a demo I recorded of this capability.