Interview – Philippe Elie – Director of Operations, EMEA, Riverbed

Philippe Elie, Director, Business Operations EMEA, Riverbed
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Philippe Elie, Director of Operations, EMEA, Riverbed. Photo provided.

Philippe Elie is the director of operations, EMEA at Riverbed Technology. Philippe is also responsible for developing the partner community in the Middle East consisting of distributors, resellers, systems integrators, and service providers. Arabian Gazette’s Moign Khawaja asked him some questions about Riverbed Technology’s operations in the Middle East, and its trademark ‘Stingray’ products.

Please tell us a bit about your background.

I have over 20 years of experience in the networking and IT industry. I started my career in the networking division at IBM as a software engineer and eventually held various positions, including marketing manager, sales engineer, and sales director – all in Western Europe. Before Riverbed, I worked at Cisco in several business development and operations positions. I’m a graduate of the French “grande école” engineering university, INSA Lyon.

What is Riverbed? What products does it offer and how are they unique from the competitors?

Riverbed delivers performance to organisations with offices across the Middle East and around the world. We help companies to successfully and intelligently implement strategic initiatives such as virtualization, consolidation, cloud computing, and disaster recovery (DR) without fear of compromising performance. By giving companies the platform they need to understand, optimize, and consolidate their IT, Riverbed helps them build a fast, fluid, and dynamic IT architecture that aligns with business needs.

We offer a performance platform consisting of solutions for WAN optimization, edge virtual server infrastructure (edge-VSI), application-aware network performance management (NPM), application delivery, web content optimization (WCO), and hybrid cloud data protection for backup, archive and DR. Respectively, these product families are Steelhead, Granite, Cascade, Stingray, and Whitewater.

Our products are unique because we have focused on addressing the needs of our enterprise customers by delivering world-class technology and providing the high-quality, fast-response support and services they require. As we work closely with our customers on our product innovations, we’re finding that there are several new technology frameworks that force their performance requirements to evolve, including the growth of cloud services models, new traffic types, and the introduction of new computing platforms, such as tablets and mobile devices. As our customers adopt these new technologies, Riverbed will continue to develop innovative solutions that meet the performance needs of the ever-changing enterprise.

We know this approach is working as evidenced in part by recent certification under the J.D. Power and Associates Certified Technology Service & Support (CTSS) program and the Technology Service Industry Association’s (TSIA) Excellence in Service Operations. These certifications acknowledge excellence in delivering outstanding service and support on a worldwide basis to our customers. This is the second consecutive year Riverbed has received this distinction for providing an outstanding customer experience and one of a select few companies to receive this distinction for global certification under both the CTSS and TSIA program in the same year.

We also routinely win product awards. Most recently, Riverbed Steelhead Cloud Accelerator has recently been named the Best of TechEd Award winner in the Cloud Computing category and the InfoWorld Test Center’s Editor’s Choice designation for the product review of RiOS 7.0, the software that powers the market-leading Steelhead WAN optimisation appliance.

What optimisation solutions does Riverbed offer to its clients that liberate them from common IT constraints? What are the most popular Riverbed products?

Riverbed is the market leader in WAN optimisation. Our Steelhead solutions remove the challenges of accessing data across vast distances, enabling employees to be more productive regardless of whether they are based on land, at sea or in the air. We do this by overcoming latency that is inherent with many applications, and reducing bandwidth utilisation. With our products, customers are able to successfully complete consolidation or virtualisation projects, and introduce VoIP or SharePoint successfully.

Our Cascade solution provides end-to-end visibility into the performance of critical applications by monitoring network performance. It enables organisations to identify all of the servers and applications running in their environments and the interdependencies between them. By understanding what is really happening across their company, IT teams are able to better plan and manage consolidation and virtualisation projects.

Finally, the latest release of Riverbed Stingray family of application delivery controllers (ADCs) combine load balancing and web content optimisation (WCO) to enable online applications to run faster, reliably and more securely. For companies who rely upon their websites to generate revenue or provide a public facing service, Stingray products deliver a high performance experience.

Bandwidth rates are expensive these days. How are enterprises trying to minimise costs, and how do Riverbed’s bandwidth optimisation solutions work to help cut costs and utilise maximum resources? 

Our products utilise a number of approaches to both reduce the amount of data that goes over the WAN and overcome specific TCP/IP and UDP bottlenecks.  The result is up to 98 percent reduced bandwidth utilisation and up to 100x increased application performance.

By deploying our Steelhead WAN optimisation solution, customers such as Al Abbar, a leading specialist in the engineering, manufacturing and installation of architectural building envelopes, saw their bandwidth utilisation reduced threefold and a 30 times improvement in application performance speeds. A 10MB document took only 40 seconds to download instead of five minutes, and the company was able to use their VoIP application effectively. The VoIP application had been virtually unusable before the Riverbed solution was installed due to bandwidth congestion. These types of results equate to real financial savings for companies like Al Abbar, where employees need fast access to data in order to work efficiently.

In another example, PermaPipe ME, a wholly owned subsidiary of Perma-Pipe Inc, a designer and manufacturer of insulated piping systems for the District Cooling and oil and gas industries, reduced bandwidth utilisation fourfold and experienced a 12-month return on investment from bandwidth savings alone. This has enabled PermaPipe ME to implement a centralised document management system that has improved employee productivity through greater collaboration of files and documents.

Virtualisation, consolidation, and cloud computing help reduce costs and improve enterprise efficiency. However, they lag in terms of file transfer speed and data protection. How is Riverbed addressing these issues? 

As companies look to consolidate and virtualise data into a private, public, or hybrid cloud environments, they are effectively moving data away from the user at the branch office layer and into a data centre. With distance comes the challenge of delivering applications quickly and easily over a wide area network or the public Internet. We have a number of solutions that are designed to overcome this challenge.

Our Steelhead appliances are available in both physical and virtual formats to enable organisations the ability to deliver data, files, and services over a WAN at local area network (LAN)-like speeds. We do this by combining a number of approaches to reduce the amount of data that crosses the WAN. These include data deduplication; caching of data, files and emails; block replication; TCP/IP optimisation; UDP optimisation; quality of service (QoS); network compression; and SSL acceleration. Riverbed offers a truly multi-protocol, multi-configuration, and multi-application solution. This multiple layered approach not only improves the performance of applications running over TCP, UDP, and IPv6, but also addresses chatty application protocols with application specific modules.

In addition, Steelhead Cloud Accelerator, a joint solution that combines Akamai’s Internet optimisation technology with our WAN optimisation technology to improve access to software as a service (SaaS) applications, speeds up the end-user experience for Google Apps,, and Microsoft Office 365.

Meanwhile, our Stingray family of application delivery products is available in both software and virtual formats, enabling IT architects to take advantage of virtualization to build their own private clouds or use public cloud infrastructure.

Finally, our Whitewater cloud storage gateways are revolutionising data protection by eliminating tape, improving DR readiness and reducing costs by 30 to 50 percent.  Leveraging Riverbed’s industry-leading WAN optimization, deduplication, local data cache, and strong encryption of data in motion and at rest, Whitewater gateways connect all popular backup applications to leading public cloud storage vendors. Its unique design and technologies help businesses avoid the need to provision and manage a secondary DR site.  This dramatically reduces capital spending and overhead, streamlines the IT infrastructure, and enables payback periods that are measured in months, not years.

How competitive are Riverbed’s cloud computing solutions? 

We offer a comprehensive range of solutions for cloud computing, in both physical and virtual formats.

For private and hybrid cloud environments, Steelhead appliances optimise the broadest range of applications available, and enable fast and secure access to centralised data. For public cloud environments, Steelhead Cloud Accelerator improves access to Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, and with additional SaaS applications on the horizon. Whitewater cloud storage gateway enables organisations to back up their data to a cloud provider securely. And Stingray software helps enterprises to migrate applications to cloud environments.

Steelhead Cloud Accelerator and Whitewater gateways are industry’s first SaaS acceleration offering and the cloud storage gateway specifically built for backup workloads, respectively.

Please tell us more about Stingray products. What are their benefits?

Stingray is a best-of-breed family of application-delivery software products that can be flexibly deployed – as an integrated set or individually to address the application performance challenge. Stingray Traffic Manager enables reliable access to web-based applications as well as scaling those applications to meet any increase in demand. Stingray Aptimizer improves website performance by accelerating web application load times.

With the recent Stingray 9.0 announcement, Riverbed has integrated its Aptimizer web content optimisation (WCO) solution with its Stingray Traffic Manager ADC product. The result is a new breed of ADC –focused on performance and specifically designed for private and public cloud environments. End users can access web applications up to four times faster while using up to 30 percent less bandwidth.

Developers utilising Stingray Traffic Manager with integrated WCO can now improve application delivery for mobile devices by automatically resizing images and optimising script load times. Agile deployment options combine with Stingray’s sophisticated administrative interfaces and total end-user transparency to deliver benefits in minimum time compared to other approaches. Developers can focus on strategic projects and product differentiation, rather than having to tune the performance for each type of mobile device, smartphone or tablet.

In addition, for those companies who only need a WCO solution, Stingray Aptimizer can be dropped into an existing ADC environment without having to change the application server or users’ browsers.

What is the future of Wide Area Network (WAN)? How do you see the technology evolving in the next 5 years? 

Organisations are continually looking for efficiencies that will enable them to increase profitably, yet deliver goods and services as required by their customers in an ever-changing global world. We help those companies achieve these goals. We recognise that IT services such as consolidation, virtualisation, and cloud computing will continue to play a vital role in enabling businesses to achieve efficiencies; and our customers tell us that WAN optimisation is a pivotal element for those projects to be delivered effectively in order to deliver the business benefits required.

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