Riverbed Technology launched a new set of APIs, SDKs and scripting tools aimed at tying all of its products into a unified system that can be customized to solve application performance problems.
Riverbed's new FlyScript initiative will rely on RESTful application program interfaces (APIs), a Python-based software development kit (SDK) and an online community where developers and customers can share scripts for customizing Riverbed products. Last December, Riverbed soft-launched the first stage of FlySript by introducing RESTful APIs on its Cascade application performance management and Stingray application delivery controller (ADC) products.
Now the company is adding the Python SDK and opening APIs to all its products over the next couple of months, as well as relaunching its customer community site as a developer community dubbed "Splash," said Chris White, senior director of Riverbed Technology Council, an internal committee that coordinates the engineering teams across Riverbed product lines.
ADC scripting typically adds programmability to the data plane, but with FlyScript, Riverbed is adding programmability to all layers of the network and all of its products.
"This is where the REST APIs come in," White said. "It's baked into the products so from the outside, you can make calls into the products to grab configurations, change configurations, run reports and get data out of these boxes. We believe some developers will program directly to these REST APIs. But we want to make it easier, so we're putting together the Python SDK for scripts and modules. For someone used to programming in Python, they can take advantage of all the stuff we do under the covers. This is the layer where they can write five lines of code that can do something. You can do statistical analysis or build a full-fledged GUI [graphical user interface] application."
Many application delivery controller vendors, most notably F5 Networks with iRules, have used scripting and developer communities to help their users customize and add new features to ADCs. Riverbed has offered some scripting programmability on its Stingray ADCs with its own TrafficScript feature.
"But Riverbed's goal is broader than that," said Joe Skorupa, research vice president with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. "The other part of this is to really knit these products together into a closed-loop system so that they can rightfully claim to be the only vendor that can identify, diagnose and correct your application performance problems."
FlyScript is about integrating with external systems, "not so much about building rules [in your ADC that are] focused on how you manipulate the HTTP protocol," said Mike Fratto, senior analyst for Current Analysis.
Not every network engineer is adept at writing software to RESTful APIs or scripting in Python. Riverbed hopes those customers will get value out of FlyScript by digging into the Splash developer community for scripts that other customers and developers will be sharing.
"For operators who don't know how to program, we will deliver sample scripts that show, for example, how to have Profiler show me the top hosts that have been talking over the last hour," White said. "Someone builds that script, shares it on our community site, and now an operator can just download that script and run it without knowing Python."
Riverbed will need to build that Splash community effectively for FlyScript to succeed, Skorupa said.
"That's one of the things that F5 has done so incredibly well with iRules and DevCentral. You need to get people excited about doing this. You need to give them the tools and the support. You need to recognize them when they do something really cool," Skorupa said. "Riverbed understands what needs to be done. They certainly have people who are really excited about Steelhead and Granite and Stingray. They need to tap into the enthusiasm in that community and use it to build something broader."
FlyScript will initially be available on Riverbed's Cascade and Stingray products, which means that customers will be able to customize how they monitor application performance and remediate problems from within the data center. As the company rolls out the APIs to the rest of its products later in the year, customers will be able to expand FlyScript outside of the data center.
"[FlyScript] can identify things with the application performance management products and then make changes to Stingray if it's a problem that can be addressed by [an ADC]," Skorupa said. "But if they need to address Quality of Service in the wide area network, they're going to need it in Steelhead. If it's going to be tuning the parameters for the storage acceleration from Granite, then they need to extend it to Granite. The other part of this is to allow them to extend it into third-party orchestration systems."
While many of the systems and network engineers who operate ADCs are very familiar with customizing and enhancing their infrastructure with scripts and programming to APIs, the engineers who run other networking platforms, such as Riverbed's Steelhead WAN optimization controller, are newer to the concept. But programmable networks are coming in one form or another.
"I expect there will have to be some education that will have to take place when they roll out scripts for the WAN optimization boxes," said Bob Laliberte, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. "If part of SDN [software-defined networking] is that you want to add greater levels of automation and orchestration, then by opening up their APIs, [Riverbed] is better able to transfer that into other devices for orchestration. As more organizations transition to be more programmable and more software-defined, you'll see more vendors give their customers and third-party partners and developers the ability to leverage APIs to create a more comprehensive solution."
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