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SteelHead Mobile 6.0 Introduces SaaS Optimization for Remote Workers

Blanco Lam
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Last week, we announced the general availability of SteelHead Mobile (SHM) 6.0. This is a significant achievement for Riverbed as we’ve created the world’s first mobile client for optimizing SaaS applications.

Optimizing SaaS applications isn’t new to us as we’ve been doing so since 2012 but an appliance (either virtual or physical) is required on the client side. This constraint meant that remote users who are working outside of a typical branch environment couldn’t benefit from any forms of optimization. Ironically, these are the users who would typically benefit the most from optimization. Fortunately, with SHM 6.0, we are now able to offer the same level of benefits to these remote users regardless of where they’re working from. What this translates to is a consistent end-user experience.

Decline in VPN usage

Another subtle change that we’re seeing is that customers are shifting away from VPN for their remote workers. The rationale behind this is simple: why VPN back into the corporate network when the key applications are already in the cloud? Security and compliance may be a key driving factor but it almost never makes sense from a performance perspective. For example, if an enterprise has migrated to Office 365, then their email and file sharing capabilities are in the cloud. Therefore, there may not be a need to VPN back into the corporate network. In fact, Microsoft recommend direct-to-Internet connectivity rather than back hauling the traffic to a single exit point. Read more about the O365 connectivity principles.

Mobile controller in Azure

How does this affect us? Well, the mobile client needs constant communication with the mobile controller in order to download the latest policy and to report the statistics. Historically, the mobile controller is deployed in the data center and the communication between the mobile client and mobile controller leverages the VPN connection. With SHM 6.0, it’s now possible to deploy the mobile controller in Azure removing the requirement for VPN connectivity. Furthermore, we have raised the maximum number of end points a single controller can support from 20,000 to 35,000 end points. When clustered together, it’s possible to support over 100,000 end points.

Delivery

Initially, this solution will be offered as a IaaS which means that the customer will own the entire infrastructure. However, we’ve partnered with Teneo whereby they can offer this as a managed service. If you’re interested in this managed service, please let us know and we can put you in touch with Teneo directly.

Results

So just how effective is this mobile optimization? Let me share the result we saw from one of our test users in Australia. He downloaded a 19MB PDF from SalesForce.com and the baseline took 13 minutes. With optimization, the first (cold) transfer took 37 seconds or 20x faster than baseline. The second (warm) transfer took 17 seconds or 43x faster than baseline. Of course, your mileage may vary but suffice to say that there’s measurable impact on the performance.

I view SteelHead Mobile as a key component to our SaaS optimization strategy and this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more announcements in the next two quarters.

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