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Riverbed gets visible with network visibility

Riverbed Technology is partnering with a host of companies to provide greater network visibility through WAN optimization and application acceleration.

Riverbed Technology Inc. has expanded its network visibility options, which executives say will help partners sell WAN optimization and application acceleration into the enterprise.

Riverbed has woven deals with a mini-ecosystem of well-known network management and monitoring companies that will enable their software to monitor and compile information from Riverbed's Steelhead appliances. That's crucial, since a number of these companies are already inside major enterprise networks that Riverbed hopes to penetrate.

Steelhead appliances enable data access and file transfer using traffic optimization and application acceleration on wide area networks (WAN).

OPNET Technologies, AlterPoint, Compuware, Mazu Networks, NetDialog and SolarWinds are aboard. Each will play different roles in monitoring and compiling information from the appliances.

Some of the companies have developed software specifically for Riverbed appliances. OPNET, for one, built an application that enables enterprises to simulate a transaction with or without a Steelhead appliance. The goal is to show IT managers how optimization solves pain points on their networks.

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"The biggest challenge that we face is that customers have no idea what their network or their traffic looks like, so trying to talk about acceleration or what it's going to look like once it's accelerated is hard," said David Hekimian, solutions architect at Trace3, an Irvine, Calif.-based Riverbed premier partner. Now companies that once reported only on traffic statistics from the router have added in reporting on accelerated traffic, which shows the whole picture, he said.

Riverbed is selling the partnerships as a way for customers to have more choice in their third-party monitoring systems. Executives also note the importance of integrated or interoperable management and monitoring systems in an ever-growing market segment.

"With other players you get one option and if you don't like it, too bad," said Apurva Dave, Riverbed's director of product marketing, regarding the choice of monitoring systems.

In an effort to increase network visibility further, the company also launched its upgraded management console this week. The Central Management Console (CMC) 5.0 adds to Steelhead's already existing network visibility tools by simplifying configuration, providing easier and more in-depth reporting and enabling role-based user access. Now administrators can determine who can configure devices, who can do only reporting, and who can do both.

On the configuration side, administrators can now manage and make changes to groups of Steelhead appliances instead of individually. That enables administrators to push out changes to large numbers of appliances throughout a huge network.

"We had enterprises come to us and say 'It's getting hard to manage individual appliances,'" Dave said.

CMC's upgraded reporting enables users to "slice and dice" data in new ways. That capability has become more important as appliances move into larger networks. For example, Dave said users can narrow their search and, for example, "look at only optimized traffic across the network in the U.S. group of appliances … in the last two weeks."

Riverbed's network visibility efforts are part of the company's effort to sell into much larger networks -- possibly even those of carriers. This is a crucial time for that push since WAN optimization and application acceleration are gaining increasing market acceptance and the competition in the market is becoming hot.

"The big message is we have become business-critical infrastructure, and visibility and monitoring are very important," Dave said.

Partners like Trace3 are banking on network visibility to prove how business-critical WAN optimization and application acceleration have actually become.

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