Window on WANs

Jan 9 2013   11:31PM GMT

Riverbed and Silver Peak compete in the courthouse

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter



 A year ago, IT performance vendor Riverbed Technology claimed competitor Silver Peak Systems had infringed upon five patents.

Just yesterday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted Silver Peak’s requests to reexamine two of them (7,428,573 & 7,849,134) and issued Office Actions rejecting all claims in each patent Riverbed accused Silver Peak of infringing — according to an official press release.

The two patents originate around Riverbed’s core deduplication technology. It’s not the first time Riverbed has been in the courthouse over patent infringement. The case is reminiscent of Riverbed’s deduplication debacle in 2007-2008 where backup vendor Quantum sued Riverbed for patent infringement.

Silver Peak CEO Rick Tinsley says Riverbed’s scaretactics call into question Riverbed’s own patents:

It appears Riverbed’s attempts to use its patents to slow down Silver Peak has backfired in a big way. This is a huge embarrassment for Riverbed as it calls into question the originality of their foundational technology. Despite spending millions of dollars on legal fees, Riverbed has to-date been unable to block Silver Peak who is gaining market share with its superior technology.

Although Riverbed is continuing growth, Silver Peak isn’t the only competitor encroaching on marketshare from Riverbed and other dominant WAN optimization vendors (like Cisco). Exinda and other innovative WAN optimization vendors are finding ways to more-flexibly deliver traditional WAN optimization technology.

While Riverbed coined the term “WAN optimziation” and proliferated the technology with its Steelhead devices — the traditional hardware-at-both-ends method of delivery is no longer dazzling customers. Enterprises want software or cloud services to take care of optimizing applications.

This is not to say that Riverbed hasn’t gone through great lengths to keep up with the times. After all, the company has been gaining newer capabilities through acquisition, like cloud networking with its Zeus Technology acquisition or Web content optimization with Aptimize.

The main difference between the competing companies is that Riverbed started out by accelerating key business applications, while Silver Peak began by optimizing anything over IP. Now that applications are proliferating networks, Riverbed has repositioned itself as an IT performance vendor (rather than a WAN optimization vendor) in order to “deliver performance of all types of workloads,” Riverbed Products and Marketing President Eric Wolford explained.

Time will tell which company’s strategy will win — in and out of the courthouse.

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