Application proliferation, among other IT trends, is changing how Riverbed Technology is architecting its WAN optimization products, and more specifically, Riverbed RiOS. With the Riverbed Optimization System (RiOS) 7.0, announced this week, the WAN optimization vendor can now offer broader application protocol acceleration (like UDP and IPv6), speed up video traffic, and incorporate security, network monitoring, VDI support and satellite link acceleration natively on its Steelhead appliances.
Riverbed's application and protocol acceleration strategy
When the WAN optimization market first began, Riverbed accelerated network traffic through proprietary algorithms that would reduce repetition in specific applications such as computer-aided design (CAD). When Riverbed introduced its SDR feature, its Steelhead appliances could reduce bandwidth consumption across all TCP traffic in addition to its proprietary "secret sauce." However, not everything runs on TCP like it used to, and enterprises are adopting applications by the boatful. Is Riverbed to reverse-engineer each popular new application and protocol?
Such a strategy is both good and bad, admits Riverbed CTO Steve McCanne. "Because there are a lot of applications that need help … we pick and choose the most important applications," he said.
One such protocol du jour is the user datagram protocol (UDP), a connectionless protocol. Riverbed is able to perform bandwidth optimization on UDP traffic for customers who want to transfer large files from one location to another.
"Traditionally, we've taken a connection-based approach to optimize all sorts of TCP traffic.… Now for UDP, we don’t take the connection-proxy or the connection-based approach. We look at UDP packets as and when they come in,” explained Riverbed Steelhead Product Marketing Manager Naveen Prabhu. “We apply our data reduction to it before it goes out on the wide area network; then we do the same for the next packet and the next."
Perhaps even more anticipated is Riverbed's ability to optimize the next-generation Internet Protocol, IPv6. While the vendor is not IPv6 Ready certified, Riverbed can provide bandwidth optimization for any TCP application over IPv6 using the packet-by-packet optimization mode described by Prabhu.
Customers have struggled in the past around Riverbed’s lack of IPv6-capable network appliances -- particularly government sector customers who have an IPv6-ready mandate. With Riverbed RiOS 7.0, network engineers can finish rolling out their IPv6 deployments and optimize TCP over IPv6.
"They only do the bandwidth optimization for IPv6 at the moment. What they do for IPv4 that they don't offer yet for IPv6 is application-level acceleration and the reason … makes sense: There are not too many applications out there using IPv6 at the moment," explained IPv6 expert Silvia Hagen.
Riverbed's video optimization
For video optimization, Riverbed's RiOS 7.0 can do stream-splitting for both flash video over HTTP and -- as an industry first -- Microsoft Silverlight over HTTP, which is used by Netflix. "HTTP is becoming the preferred method for delivering and distributing video even within the enterprise, which is why we focused on these two application protocols," said Prabhu.
Stream-splitting saves bandwidth by sending one video stream across a WAN link and then splitting it at the edge so that other users can watch the same live video locally off the endpoint. Such functionality is now native on Steelhead appliances so that customers won't need to install third-party media servers at branch locations or on Riverbed service platforms for streaming video.
For on-demand streaming video, Riverbed RiOS 7.0 combines its existing QoS capabilities and allows IT managers to cache content at a branch office before known peak times.
"For instance, if you’re a video administrator and you know you’re going to push out a brand new selection of training videos, to pre-empt the Monday morning rush to consume these videos you can pre-populate this content over the weekend. So when the users come in on Monday, all the content they need is actually local, and they don’t end up pulling a lot of data across the wide area network," Prabhu said.
Because video traffic over enterprise WANs is becoming the norm, Riverbed is right in line with where customer requirements are, according to IDC Program Vice President Cindy Borovick.
"At IDC we believe that video has reached a point where the network manager has to 'accept' video. It is not just about allowing employees access out to Internet sites.Video is being used by the enterprise for use cases such as training, executive communications, corporate culture, customer service, marketing launches, and communications to customers, partners and suppliers," she said.
Security enhancements for VDI traffic and Microsoft apps
Early this quarter, Riverbed announced a partnership with PCoIP developer Teradici Corp. in order to improve VDI performance. With RiOS 7.0, Riverbed will now be able to configure ICA or ICA over SSL to optimize Citrix virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments.
The new Riverbed Optimization System will also provide end-to-end support for Kerberos, the default method of authentication for Microsoft protocols. Supporting end-to-end Kerberos authentication for Microsoft applications and optimizing Office 365 traffic will be of great benefit to those using Microsoft Office applications and Microsoft Exchange servers.
Native integration of existing products Skipware and Cascade Shark
The last update to RiOS 7.0 integrates SkipWare and Cascade Shark onto Steelhead appliances.
Wireless WAN technologies -- such as satellite, which is being used more frequently across enterprises -- are known to have very slow connections. To combat this, in November of last year, Riverbed acquired Global Protocols -- a company known best for SkipWare, its Space Communications Protocol Standard (SCPS) satellite acceleration software. The SCPS protocol was developed by NASA and U.S. Space Command to leverage satellite connections for tricky terrain and environments that are not possible to network via other means. With RiOS 7.0, Riverbed Steelhead appliances will be able to natively optimize satellite links. Military, federal, gas and oil sectors will no longer need to purchase SkipWare in addition to the Steelhead product.
More useful still is Riverbed's integration of Cascade Shark. Riverbed added packet-based WAN monitoring to its existing flow-based network monitoring system when it acquired CACE Technologies in October 2010. CACE’s flagship product Shark Appliance was a network monitoring tool based on the open source Wireshark software. Re-branded as Cascade Shark, the product provides in-depth packet capture analysis for troubleshooting, which can be done remotely without a dedicated appliance. By placing this capability on the Steelhead appliance, you will no longer need to transfer files across a WAN, which could consume a lot of bandwidth; the functionality integrates with Riverbed's Cascade Pilot Console.
Riverbed RiOS 7.0 will be available in December.