It’s hard to pick stocks in cloud computing, because so many of them have become absurdly overvalued. So what I do is look at a handful of them, learn about the companies, and try to figure out which ones have true staying power. Then you look for opportunities to buy them on pullbacks.
Riverbed is a company that I have been following for several years. I have published a profile of Riverbed here on my new site, Investor Uprising, in which I try to explain how Riverbed plans to expand. A true “best of breed” player in WAN optimization, Riverbed is now looking to use its leverage in that market to branch out and grow on more fronts. I had a chance to meet with several Riverbed executives at Interop in Las Vegas, and following those meetings I think the company is on the verge of taking it to the next nevel. CEO Jerry Kennelly very clearly described some growth opportunities for the company that will take it from a point-product company to a multifaceted networking power.
Here’s the important thing about Riverbed: Its technology takes advantages of long-term trends in networking in computing: Data-center consoldiation, the migration of apps from the enterprise to the cloud, and outsourced networking optimization. If you are asking what this all means because it’s too many buzzwords — it’s that large and small companies both are looking to outsource more of their technology and networking needs to service providers who operate in the “cloud” — providing any application or computing online, at any time.
The reason this is important for Riverbed is because it flies in the face of what has built the existing networking juggernaut: Cisco Systems. Cisco is built on the emergence of Ethernet networks and IP routing. It comes from an era in which companies hired armies of IT people to configure and deploy Ethernet switches and routers. All of that is moving to the cloud and massive data centers run by service providers. The interesting thing here is that Cisco has displayed weakness in selling data-center products: Its software is aging and lacks the scale to handle the shift.
This is a profound shift and one to carefully watch in the networking space. On the valuation, Riverbed recently pulled back $10 from an all-time high and I used the opportunity to pick up some shares. The P/E is a palatable 30, given a growth rate in excess of 40%. The PEG is now 1.40, which is well of recent highs. You have to pay up for this company because it has such huge prospects.
(Disclosure: Long RVBD).