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Riverbed enhances its SD-WAN performance-monitoring platform

News Analysis
Nov 07, 20174 mins
Application Performance ManagementNetwork MonitoringNetworking

The new version of SteelCentral provides an end-to-end view of the user experience, monitoring applications, network traffic, devices and infrastructure from one console.

Digital transformation is on every IT and business leader’s radar today. The path to it, though, may not be simple. While many industry pundits like to call out the likes of Uber and AirBnb, those digital natives didn’t have to worry about disrupting an existing business.

To help mainstream businesses make that jump to a digital organization, Riverbed launched two new solutions at its Disrupt customer event last week in New York City.

Enhanced network performance management

The first is a new version of its network and application performance management platform, SteelCentral, enabling IT staff to better understand digital experiences. This aligns with a new movement among the NPM/APM vendors to shift to digital experience management (DEM), providing visibility into customer or worker experience regardless of whether the infrastructure is on premises, in the public cloud or in a hybrid environment.

This specific release correlates the end-user experience with network performance. If the worker or customer experiences a problem, SteelCentral users can “see” the end-to-end service and analyze devices, applications, compute infrastructure or network traffic in one console. Also new with this release: integration with ServiceNow, the de facto standard in IT Service Management. SteelCentral Aternity (the acquisition that gave Riverbed device monitoring capabilities) can automatically generate trouble tickets into the ServiceNow system if performance thresholds are exceeded. 

This should be invaluable to IT departments, as my research shows that 75 percent of trouble tickets are currently opened by users and not the IT department, putting infrastructure people in constant “firefighting” mode. There has been a significant amount of industry focus on having IT departments shift to a proactive management model, but that can’t happen without the tools. The integration of SteelCentral and ServiceNow enables IT pros to get a head start on the troubleshooting process and then the visibility in SteelCentral can help identify the exact source of a problem quickly.

SteelCentral now also supports container monitoring by managing container and application performance without requiring modifications to the container image. Instead of having to tweak the image, management is done through container orchestrators such as Kubernetes or Docker’s Swarm. These are widely adopted tools, so this should be easy for most companies to implement. Containers have grown increasingly popular, particularly with organizations that have developed a DevOps strategy. There has always been a divide between application developers and infrastructure engineers, and CIOs have been working to bring these groups together. The ability to monitor containers can help create a common view for these historically siloed groups, which is a prerequisite for having them work as one. 

SD-WAN integration with Zscaler

Riverbed’s second announcement is software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) integration with Zscaler, one of the leading cloud security vendors. One of the building blocks of digital transformation is the cloud, but security is the top inhibitor to faster cloud adoption. This alliance enables businesses to securely connect their networks to cloud apps. 

Zscaler has partnered with many of the common public cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365 for secure connectivity. Zscaler has been integrated into Riverbed’s SD-WAN management tool, SteelConnect Manager, making it easy for network engineers to create policies to steer cloud traffic to the Zscaler service. 

One of the benefits of SD-WANs is that branch workers can connect directly to a cloud service, but this creates additional security risks and forces companies to buy local firewalls for each branch. Distributed organizations will find doing that gets very expensive, quickly. The Riverbed-Zscaler partnership lets organizations configure secure branch connectivity with just a few mouse clicks. 

No matter how much training companies do, workers can’t be relied upon to always make the right decision on what to click and what not to click. This joint solution gives business the benefits of an SD-WAN but ensures user sessions are protected with access controls and advanced threat protection, which protects the worker and the company. 

Most businesses are focused on digital transformation (84 percent, according to my research). But many complications hold businesses back. Riverbed’s announcements certainly don’t solve all challenges, but they do help secure the cloud and bring visibility to user experience, which are two of the bigger challenges.


Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, and provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.

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