Riverbed has begun shipping a PC client for its Steelhead WAN acceleration devices that does away with the need for a Steelhead at both ends of the link.
The company claimed that a Windows laptop with the client software should see LAN-like performance anywhere, even at a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
The client software replicates the Steelhead's RiOS (Riverbed Optimisation System) software, reducing both application and protocol latencies. Among other things, it can accelerate Windows file sharing, web applications and Microsoft Exchange email transmission, the company said.
"The laptop is the biggest opportunity we see, as most of the IT investment being made today is to support mobile working," noted Mark Lewis, Riverbed's European marketing director.
He added: "This is a whole new market, yet in other ways it is not new at all - it is doing everything the Steelhead does, so that's compression, protocol optimisation, application optimisation and management streamlining."
The new Steelhead Mobile system requires a Steelhead appliance, typically installed in the datacentre, plus a management device called a Steelhead Mobile Controller (SMC). The latter pushes out the client software, plus updates as needed, said Lewis.
He added that the company has also adopted a concurrent licensing scheme. The initial package, which lists for $12,995 (around £6500) will include an SMC plus 30 user licences, but an organisation could use that to support more than 30 laptops, as long as no more than 30 are connected at any one time.
Riverbed staff and some of its customers have been testing the mobile client software in beta form for a while now. It uses sophisticated algorithms to reduce the amount of data that must be transmitted over the network - for example, to open a remote file and then feed changes back from the PC.
One of the beta-testers was Psomas, a US engineering consultancy whose CIO, Chris Pinckney, said that the software has delivered multiple benefits.
"Remote workers whose access to data was restricted because of performance constraints are now able to access files in real-time because they have LAN-like speed to actual data," he said, adding: "One of our remote employees works out of his home in San Jose and is working on a project in Costa Mesa. For the first time, he feels as though he is an effective part of the project team."
Several other WAN optimisation vendors also have PC clients, such as Blue Coat, Citrix (through its acquisition of Orbital Data), ICT, Packeteer (via its acquisition of Tacit) and Stampede. However, few look able to match the Riverbed software on breadth of functionality.
"The mobile client is the next big thing for WAN optimisation," said Lewis. "Then, it will become deployed wider and after that it will become invisible - within your community or organisation, at least."