Riverbed announces multiple software-defined solutions

Riverbed is making significant announcements today around its SteelConnect, SteelCentral and SteelFusion product lines.

riverbed-logoToday at Riverbed Disrupt 2016, Riverbed’s major customer event being held in New York City, the company is making a plethora of announcements. Riverbed has been aggressively expanding into the broader networking space, beyond the WAN optimization market where it originally built its business. The new announcements, which all revolve around software defined networking, continue that trend.

Three announcements are product focused. One is the general availability announcement of SteelConnect, Riverbed’s new gen SD-WAN solution announced in April, which has been in early access availability until now. Enhancements (and a new cloud solution) were also announced for the SteelCentral network performance management offering and the SteelFusion hyper-converged edge solution. New partnership announcements with IBM, Microsoft and Palo Alto Networks were also announced.

“Our Disrupt event is designed to inspire new thinking and breakthrough technologies, and to this end we will introduce a series of software-defined solutions,” said Milind Bhise, Senior Director of Product Marketing, SteelConnect.

SteelConnect is a SD-WAN product, but Bhise said that SteelConnect 2.0 – the early access release was the 1.0 – is part of a story that is much bigger than SD-WAN. It is also a cloud networking and branch LAN/WAN solution.

“Hardware centric and CLI-focused networking won’t work any more in the cloud era,” he said. “A fundamental rethinking of networking is required.” Several key challenges surround SD-WAN however, including securing and managing the hybrid WAN, integrating cloud networks (IaaS) easily into corporate networks, and managing user access and network segmentation to ensure branch security and compliance.”

The improvements in SteelConnect 2.0 include Native Dynamic Routing, which allow SteelConnect Gateways to be used in place of legacy branch routers to reduce the cost and complexity of managing connectivity to remote locations. There are also several new platform integrations. These include: SteelCentral integration into SteelConnect Manager for advanced SD-WAN visibility with application performance management and network performance management capabilities; Integration of SteelConnect into SteelHead CX platforms for a converged SD-WAN and WAN optimization solution; and integration of SteelConnect with SteelHead Interceptor for streamlined integration into larger enterprise datacenter deployments. These integrations are to be completed in stages. For example, the Steelhead CX70 will be a converged box solution in 7.0, but will have full management integration in early 2017.

“SteelConnect 2.0 will also allow partners to use Steel Connect for a SD-WAN managed service offering,” Bhise said.

Riverbed also announced two new SteelConnect Gateway models with increased performance and high-availability and a new SteelConnect Switch with increased density and throughput. SteelConnect Gateway 1030 delivers up to 1 Gbps throughput at edge locations while the SteelConnect Gateway 5030 delivers up to 10 Gbps throughput and supports high-availability configurations in the data center. The SteelConnect Switch S48 provides 48x GbE PoE+ ports in a 1U rack mountable form-factor.

The SteelCentral announcements include the release of a new SteelCentral cloud SaaS solution, improved end user experience monitoring from the recently acquired Aternity technology, as well as the deeper integration with SteelConnect to deliver SD-WAN monitoring and visibility.

Before now the market for a SaaS-based performance monitoring solution has been limited, but Riverbed believes this is changing.

“Today for performance monitoring, the overwhelming majority of enterprise customers buy tools on-prem, and very few buy SaaS,” said Nik Koutsoukos, VP of Product Marketing, SteelCentral. “The mix is changing through because of dev/ops and developers. SaaS is more important there because of smaller deployments, and less complexity.”

Unified performance management-as-a-service will unify network visibility with application visibility, and Koutsoukos said this will be the best way to manage applications in the cloud. The SteelCentral SaaS offering is slated for beta in Q3 and general availability in Q4.

The finalization of the Aternity acquisition, which was made in late July, has value across the Riverbed portfolio, especially on SaaS applications like Office 365, Skype for Business and Sharepoint, but is particularly valuable to SteelCentral.

“There are three ways to determine what the end user is experiencing,” Koutsokous said. “You can look at traffic and response times to estimate what the user experience is like, which SteelCentral already does. For browser-based apps, you can get a JavaScript injection from the server and based on that, you can tell what the end user is experiencing. What Aternity adds is the ability to monitor the end user device directly, through a software agent there. It provides that last mile of visibility, and lets us look at the end user experience from three different angles.”

Koutsokous indicated that the Aternity integration has already started.

“It will take a couple of quarters, and over that time you will see more integration between the APM solutions and end user devices,” he said.

The announcements around SteelFusion, Riverbed’s software-defined edge solution, extend new cloud and virtual deployment options.

“We are introducing new cloud and virtual deployment options, including a new virtual form factor for the Edge appliance,” said Saveen Pakala, Senior Director Products, SteelFusion. “This virtual form factor will let us target use cases where we couldn’t get in the door before. There are buyers with hardware restrictions, like in the federal space, with the military, where they don’t want hardware units out in the field.”

Virtual SteelFusion Edge will initially be available as a fully integrated system through Avnet in North America by the end of 2016. EMEA and APJ distribution will be announced later.

“Because this is a reference architecture-based offering, it will allow partners to pick their own hardware and have the integration done with Avnet,” Pakala said.

The cloud part of this announcement is that SteelFusion can now be deployed on IBM SoftLayer, an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud platform. In addition, SteelFusion now supports IBM Spectrum Accelerate, a software-defined storage solution for building enterprise private cloud storage with commodity server hardware.

“SteelFusion is especially valuable from a channel perspective, because partners sell a significant array of services around it – data protection, business continuity, cloud migration and other services,” said Alison Hubbard, Director Product Marketing, SteelFusion. “All the Riverbed technologies integrate at the edge into SteelFusion, which makes it a very valuable opportunity for channel partners.”

Finally, Riverbed is announcing new partnership announcements with Microsoft and Palo Alto Networks. Riverbed is announcing its integration with the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. It is also announcing that Palo Alto has now been certified to run on SteelFusion Edge.

“We will now be better to leverage those relationships, and now, as well, IBM,” Bhise said.