Riverbed Expands WAN Optimization Visibility

What’s running on your network?

It may seem like a simple question, but it’s not always an easy one to
answer for large networks running dozens of applications and myriad
protocols. Where it gets particularly challenging is for networks running
WAN optimization gear that wants to peek into the packet stream. It’s a
challenge that WAN optimization vendor Riverbed (NASDAQ: RVBD) is meeting
with the new release of its Cascade 8.4 application visibility and
monitoring solution.

With the Cascade 8.4 release, Riverbed is integrating application
visibility technology with its Steelhead WAN optimization appliances to
provide overall network optimization. The Cascade technology was originally
acquired by Riverbed as part of its acquisition of Mazu Networks in
2009, for $25 million. Rival WAN acceleration vendor Blue Coat made a
similar technology
acquisition
with Packeteer, adding WAN visibility to its mix.

Now that it has Cascade 8.4 in place, Riverbed’s network administrator
customers will now be able to accurately identify if application
acceleration is actually being experienced by their users — a level beyond
Mazu’s previous capabilities.

“If you look at what Mazu was able to do prior to the integration, they
were able to give you visibility to report on network information but they
were not able to do that for network acceleration,” Yoav Eilat, director of
product marketing at Riverbed, told InternetNews.com. “So all the
numbers were wrong.”

The ability to monitor traffic flows with packet capture tools is
something that anyone with access to a network can do. However, according to
Eilat, Cascade goes several steps further with its analysis and monitoring
capabilities.

“The raw information that we collect from the network with all the
packets is there for anyone to see,” Eilat said. “Where we think we’re
special is with our analytical model, where all that huge amount of network
information is measured and analyzed. Cascade then builds a model of what
normal behavior is, and it will show you if anything has changed and is
outside of normal behavior.”

As part of the Cascade 8.4 release, Riverbed is also introducing a new
deployment method. Previously, Cascade was available only as a hardware
appliance, but with the 8.4 release, Riverbed is also introducing a new
virtual edition called Cascade VE.

With Cascade VE, the monitoring solution can be installed directly onto a
Steelhead appliance by way of the Riverbed Services Platform (RSP). The RSP technology debuted in 2008 and enables
Riverbed’s Steelhead WAN acceleration appliances to run virtual services on
the device.

In addition to the Cascade appliance — which might be installed at a
local branch office — or the Cascade VE installation, the solution requires
the Cascade profiler and gateway, which are the datacenter components that
collect the traffic and handle networking traffic analysis.

Cascade 8.4 also takes advantage of some new capabilities that Riverbed
introduced with its RiOS 6 operating system for Steelhead in
2009. For instance, Eilat said that RiOS 6.0 generates its own flow record
so that the Cascade profiler and gateway can read them.

“There are certain types of information that you can collect even without
running the Cascade VE product,” Eilat said. “So even if you just have RiOS
6, then with no additional installation you do get some more information
sent from the remote offices. It doesn’t give to the same level of
performance monitoring, but does give some basic statistics.”

For the future, Eilat said that Riverbed will continue to improve Cascade
as networking challenges and priorities evolve.

“There are lots of big topics under discussion at Riverbed around cloud
computing,” Eilat said. “There will also be even tighter integration between
the Cascade product and the Steelhead product. We think there is even more
integration and ability to have the products feed one another with
information so you can do more interesting things.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of
Internet.com, the network for
technology professionals.

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