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Riverbed SteelCentral product overview

Riverbed SteelCentral is one of the most prominent network performance monitoring systems on the market today. Networking expert Andrew Froehlich takes a deeper dive into its features.

Editor's note: This Riverbed SteelCentral product overview is part of a series on network performance monitoring. The series also explores the evolution of network monitoring technology, discusses the major use cases, lays out the major purchasing criteria and compares the leading vendors on the market.

Among the most highly respected products in the network performance monitoring (NPM) market is SteelCentral from Riverbed Technology Inc. The San Francisco-based company first made a name for itself in 2004, when it released its SteelHead WAN optimization appliances. Looking to build upon the broad adoption of the SteelHead product, the company developed a robust NPM platform that tightly integrates with SteelHead to greatly enhance visibility and troubleshooting capabilities. Within SteelCentral, there are a number of modules that perform various NPM functions, including standard infrastructure availability monitoring, application monitoring, packet flow and deep packet inspection capabilities. All implemented modules are managed and monitored through a unified management portal.

NPM platform

Riverbed SteelCentral is composed of two distinct platforms: One is for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), while the other is for larger enterprises. Let's take a look at each of the SteelCentral modules available today.

SteelCentral NetExpress: This module is the all-in-one foundation for SMBs or remote sites in distributed network architectures. While the software doesn't scale like the full-blown version -- nor does it contain all the NPM features -- it's much easier to deploy, as it can perform monitoring, packet flow and inspection on a single appliance.

SteelCentral AppResponse: This network-based application performance monitor collects end-user experience statistics without the use of an agent. This data can be used to monitor and identify performance issues from the perspective of the end user. Extending visibility to the end user is critical when troubleshooting performance issues, and the software can view transactions -- from end to end --through an application perspective.

SteelCentral NetProfiler: Another tool used to understand and assist in troubleshooting application performance issues is NetProfiler. This module captures packets and analyzes traffic as it traverses the network. NetProfiler also meshes with SteelHead WAN optimization devices to monitor wide-area traffic. NetProfiler is often used for the identification of critical data flows, so they can be tagged and prioritized with quality of service. Yet another use for this module is the detection of irregularities that may point to a security breach.

SteelCentral NetSensor: The Riverbed SteelCentral NetSensor module monitors all infrastructure components throughout the network, including application components. This includes data such as application and server availability, server and network hardware CPU, and memory utilization and network interface status. This monitoring and data collection is primarily performed using protocols such as Simple Network Management Protocol and Windows Management Instrumentation.

SteelCentral NetShark: NetShark collects and stores deep packet inspection captures for historical analysis on a network.

SteelCentral Portal: Portal is Riverbed's single-pane-of-glass management module that allows administrators to take advantage of information gathered from all NPM modules in a holistic way. Riverbed SteelCentral Portal includes useful dashboards that can be adjusted, so the administrator can quickly see the information that matters to them the most.

Pricing and support

Riverbed offers customers four different levels of support based on how quickly a customer needs replacement equipment shipped in the event of a failure. All include access to software upgrades and patches, as well as support through web, phone and email. Return merchandise authorization agreement times range between four hours and 10 business days. On-site technical assistance is also available.

Riverbed SteelCentral pricing depends on the size of your network and performance monitoring needs. NetExpress -- for SMBs -- is priced at approximately $20,000. Larger, full-functionality deployments featuring the full complement of enterprise NPM modules can quickly top the six-figure range.

Next Steps

Take a closer look at Riverbed SteelCentral's APM features.

Riverbed recently upgraded SteelCentral to support public cloud, containers and communications apps.

Learn more about how network availability monitoring works in concert with NPM.

This was last published in July 2016

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