Riverbed Bolsters SD-WAN, Network Management Offerings

At the company's Disrupt event, Riverbed officials unveiled new and enhanced products that make branch networks easier to deploy and manage.


Riverbed Technology wants to help enterprises better navigate the sometimes-bumpy road from legacy data centers to software-based environments and the cloud.

At the company's Disrupt event this week, Riverbed officials unveiled a bulked-up SteelConnect software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) portfolio, a cloud-based application performance management (APM) SteelCentral offering that also includes end-user experience monitoring thanks to Riverbed's recent acquisition of Aternity, improved branch provisioning capabilities via Cloud-Ready Branch and new form factors for its SteelFusion software-defined offering for distributed environments.

The vendor once best known for its WAN optimization capabilities is building on that to offer customers an integrated path for migrating their legacy network infrastructures to a world that is rapidly becoming more digital. Riverbed signaled its direction last year when officials announced its move to pursue the nascent but fast-growing SD-WAN space, which was followed in January by the company's acquisition of Ocedo and then the launch of SteelConnect in April.

The network has lagged behind servers and storage equipment in the data center in embracing a software-based, cloud-ready direction—all of which is driven by the rise of clouds and the proliferation of mobile devices—but the push now to software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) is changing that. The rise of hybrid WANs, fueled in large part by the growth of SD-WAN technologies, is changing the way branch and remote office networks are being designed and deployed, according to Joshua Dobies, vice president of product marketing at Riverbed. These offices are now getting direct access to the cloud rather than having to backhaul everything to the data center.

But this is only a first step, Dobies told eWEEK.

"SD-WAN is really the beginning of something bigger," he said.

The new and enhanced products unveiled by Riverbed are designed to address growing demands from customers for greater and easier control and management of their hybrid network architectures.

"Today, we're delivering a software-defined architecture for a software-defined world, and expanding that infrastructure deeper into the cloud and more broadly across all end users," Riverbed Chairman and CEO Jerry Kennelly said in a statement.

Central to what Riverbed introduced was SteelCentral 2.0, the next version of its SD-WAN offering. The enhanced product includes integration with SteelCentral, giving customers greater visibility throughout the network, and with Riverbed's SteelHead product, for greater WAN optimization capabilities. It also integrates with Riverbed's Interceptor offering, which gives SteelConnect greater scale for dealing with larger enterprise deployments, officials said.

In addition, SteelCentral 2.0 offers native dynamic routing, adding routing capabilities to the product's lineup of WAN gateways, remote LAN switches and WiFi access points and giving organizations a technology that will allow them to replace legacy routers.

Through SteelConnect, enterprises can unify the deployment and orchestration of hybrid WANs, branch networks—such as LANs and WLANs—and cloud environments, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft's Azure. AWS support is available now, while Azure support will come in early 2017.

The new SteelCentral release takes advantage of Riverbed's acquisition of Aternity in July, a move that brought with the ability to monitor application performance on physical and mobile end-user devices. The Aternity technologies have been integrated into SteelCentral to enable organizations to monitor end-user experience through their devices. Through its new software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, Riverbed is enabling customers to use SteelCentral via the cloud without having to use a dedicated hardware appliance.

The addition of the Aternity technology and extending visibility into the end-user devices give Riverbed a full portfolio of management offerings, according to Nik Koutsoukos, vice president of product marketing at the vendor.

"This really completes the picture from an end-to-end management perspective," Koutsoukos told eWEEK.

Riverbed's Cloud-Ready Branch gives customers a software-defined, cloud-ready offering built on the company's application performance platform and enables them to manage all branch office IT from a single place. Users can determine and choose the services they need on a branch-by-branch basis, from SD-WAN and integrated WAN optimization to visibility across networks and applications.

The company also is making SteelFusion available in new form factors. Originally a hyperconverged device aimed at the network edge and designed to pull together the branch IT infrastructure into a single appliance, SteelFusion now can be deployed on IBM's cloud environment, as an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering or in a virtual form factor with Virtual SteelFusion Edge, enabling customers to centralize IT at the edge in their own central data center, in the cloud or in a hybrid fashion.