Riverbed’s back with a beefed-up SD-WAN solution

Riverbed Technology has been aggressively rebuilding its portfolio to better align with SD-WAN, and its recent announcements show it has come roaring back

Riverbed’s back with a beefed-up SD-WAN solution

Riverbed Technology is well known as the de facto standard for WAN optimization and pioneered that market. Maybe there were a few vendors with solutions out before Riverbed, but it was the company that defined and evangelized that market.

However, the WAN market changed and over the past few years. The industry has seen the meteoric rise in software-defined WANs (SD-WAN), and Riverbed had fallen behind many of the startups in the space.

Over the past year, Riverbed has been aggressively rebuilding its portfolio, including the acquisition of Ocedo, to better align with SD-WAN and has come roaring back. At its Disrupt event this week, the company made a number of announcements, indicating just how far the company has come in the last 24 months.

The release of SteelConnect 2.0

The first major announcement was the release of SteelConnect 2.0, which is the first production version of SteelConnect. The product is a complete SD-WAN solution that includes native dynamic routing, integration with SteelCentral for end-to-end visibility, WAN optimization using Riverbed SteelHead, and support for large-scale data center deployments using Riverbed Interceptor. 

While all of those are delivered on separate platforms today, Riverbed does have a roadmap to bring the platforms and management together. 

SteelConnect 2.0 shows how robust and flexible its SD-WAN solution is, as it now supports the unification of hybrid WANs (internet and MPLS) and branch networks (LAN and WAN). This release also supports a cloud gateway that directly connects branches to Amazon Web Services (AWS) today and Microsoft Azure in early 2017. 

The SD-WAN solution includes a wide range of infrastructure, including secure WAN gateways, wired switches and Wi-Fi access points, all of which can be managed centrally with zero touch through a cloud management interface. 

SteelFusion available in cloud or virtual form factor

Riverbed also announced that SteelFusion is now available in either a cloud or virtual form factor. If you’re not familiar with SteelFusion, it’s an edge device that consolidates branch services such as servers, storage, backup infrastructure and security in one box.

SteelFusion supports my position on WAN transformation that evolving to SD-WAN without taking care of branch infrastructure solves only half of the problem. Branches are filled with disparate appliances today that make managing remote offices a headache. SteelFusion simplifies branch operations and makes turning up new branches fasters. This release gives customers the option of running SteelFusion on a physical appliance, virtual machine or IBM’s cloud.

New version of SteelCentral

Another announcement is the evolution of SteelCentral, Riverbed’s application performance and management platform. The product now includes the ability to monitor direct end user experience through technology from the recent acquisition of Aternity. SteelCentral now provides an end-to-end view of the infrastructure that extends from the core of the network to the user’s hand. This is particularly important for real-time applications such as voice and video where the performance can degrade because of client-side issues.

Riverbed also announced SteelCentral SaaS for cloud application visibility. More and more organizations are shifting to a cloud-first model, so the ability to see how infrastructure impacts the performance of SaaS apps. The opposite also becomes important as monitoring on-premises infrastructure. Most traditional APM tools treat the cloud as a big blind spot, but SteelCentral SaaS shines a light on something that would have been dark.

Riverbed was the market leader and thought leader for WAN evolution for years, but the shift to SD-WAN disrupted its business model. The company went private a few years ago to re-tool itself to be more in line with current market trends.

It’s been a busy past couple of years for the company, but this batch of announcements indicates Riverbed’s products are ready for the era of SD-WAN. Given its massive install base of SteelHeads, Riverbed should be able to parlay that into SD-WAN leadership relatively quickly. There’s still more work to be done in the areas of platform consolidation, but it’s safe to say Riverbed’s back.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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