Riverbed teases with free SteelStore offering

Sweetens the pot with half a year of 8TB/month Amazon S3 at no cost.

Riverbed announced today that customers can now use the virtual edition of the company's SteelStore storage appliance for free, bundling the product with six months of Amazon S3 cloud storage (at 8TB per month of volume) on the house.

SteelStore is Riverbed's cloud storage front-end, offering streamlined management capabilities, as well as compression, deduplication and encryption, with the aim of unifying a customer's storage infrastructure under a single banner.

The offer is good until Oct. 9, after which the free S3 offer expires and SteelStore reverts to its standard pricing.

Dave Russell, a storage technology analyst at Gartner, told Network World that part of the idea behind Riverbed's offering is to get potential customers into the company's product ecosystem, in the hope of getting them to eventually buy physical appliances.

"Offering virtual appliance solutions can be an easy way for prospects to download and trial a solution before purchasing," he said. "In this case, receiving free capacity too means that an organization can really use the offering (and getting someone to try the product is often the most difficult issue) and if data gets backed up to the cloud, then there is a greater chance that they will continue on with the solution."

That's borne out by Riverbed's latest quarterly numbers, released at the end of July, which show that the company's revenue from product sales is shrinking slightly in comparison to its services income. An influx of new customers could do a great deal to bolster what some financial analysts have characterized as mediocre market performance from Riverbed, including what consultant Stephen Simpson characterized as "chronic execution issues" on the sales side, in an article last month for Seeking Alpha.

For Russell, Riverbed's offer is well-timed from other perspectives as well he said that the mid-sized enterprise and remote office businesses that are the primary target customers for SteelStore are increasingly willing to try out new storage and backup products of late, and that the offer doesn't entail any appreciable risk for those potential buyers.

"In all likelihood, customers would run their current backup infrastructure in parallel, but this is a low risk, not very resource intensive way to trial cloud backup and/or the SteelStore capabilities," Russell said.

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