Riverbed Steelhead RiOS update: Path selection, more app optimization

Riverbed Steelhead adds path selection, increased application performance visibility and optimization for hybrid IT environments.

Riverbed Technology Inc. has added path selection and new integration to its Cascade network performance optimization technology through updates to its flagship Steelhead WAN optimization products.

WANs are becoming more complicated as enterprises grow more distributed and adopt more cloud applications. This complexity challenges an IT organization's ability to accelerate important traffic. Path selection, a new feature of the Riverbed Steelhead operating system, Riverbed Optimization System (RiOS) version 8.5, gives network administrators better control over hybrid cloud application performance in complex networks. They can use the path selection feature to reroute application flows on the fly before end users notice any performance degradation.

"The WAN has become very dynamic and most enterprises have multiple kinds of WAN links now," said Andre Kindness, senior analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. "[Businesses] can take advantage of those links to find the best route to send traffic and services where users need it to go."

Riverbed Steelhead WAN optimization: Path selection and acceleration

Most enterprises are using MPLS networks for their primary application traffic and rely on Internet connections both as a backup to their MPLS network and as primary links for smaller, branch offices. But enterprises with high traffic demands could benefit from making use of those backup routes for production traffic, said Andrew Lerner, networking research director for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research.

Path selection has been available in standalone appliances from other vendors -- including FatPipe Networks and Ipanema Technologies -- but Riverbed is adding dynamic path selection as a feature on its Steelhead appliances.

Path selection -- which is combined with application identification by deep packet inspection within RiOS -- identifies the best available route and allows network administrators to set rules and direct certain applications over certain paths, said Nik Rouda, senior director of marketing at Riverbed. "Voice applications would go over primary paths and second-tier or even recreational traffic can go over a secondary path -- like the Internet or even a backup MPLS link," he said.

New integration between Riverbed Cascade Profiler 10.0.7 and RiOS 8.5 will give IT increased visibility and application-aware network performance management capabilities, as well as allow Steelhead products access to Cascade data. Enterprises will have better insights into their disaster recovery (DR) environments and can prioritize replication for critical data.

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The integration of the Riverbed Steelhead and Cascade line will simplify operations for enterprise IT, who won't have to cobble together different network performance tools, Forrester's Kindness said. "Visibility and optimization have been two different things traditionally, even though they should be together -- customers definitely want their tools to work as a system," he said.

Path selection will be especially effective for hybrid IT environments, Gartner's Lerner said. "If enterprises are doing work inside of a public, [Software as a Service] SaaS-based tool, like Salesforce.com, path selection could route traffic through the Internet connection. If they are using the corporate data center, it would choose the MPLS network," he said.

While it is possible to build path selection into an enterprise network using routers and switches, most businesses do not have the IT expertise to manage the increasingly complex environments, Lerner said. "Enterprises have been trying to establish dynamic path selection with the addition of cloud, but have given up," he said. "Many enterprises -- especially SMBs [small- and medium-sized businesses] -- will appreciate a simpler means of managing path selection," he said.

Increased optimization and visibility across hybrid environments

The updated Riverbed Steelhead line also includes new storage optimization for NetApp SnapMirror for data replication with lower bandwidth utilization. These new capabilities will improve their DR options for Riverbed customers, said Steve Inman, president at VistaOne, an Atlanta-based IT professional services provider and Riverbed partner.

"It's big for DR environments, in which our customers have Riverbed products optimizing the flow of traffic between two data centers for replication purposes," Inman said.

Riverbed Steelhead and RiOS 8.5 also has expanded optimizations for Microsoft applications, including SharePoint 2013, Exchange 2013 and Office365. "Our customers are excited about having Layer 7 application acceleration and performance gains for all the latest releases of Microsoft applications," said VistaOne's Inman.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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