Riverbed adds packet-based analysis to product suite

San Francisco, Calif.-based Riverbed Technology Inc. has integrated packet-capturing and analysis technology to its Cascade network and application management product line.

The wide-area network (WAN) optimization firm acquired the packet-capturing technology after buying CACE Technologies last October. Riverbed said its Cascade product line, which can analyze, monitor, and track network and application performance, will become increasingly important as enterprises depend on WAN technology for their cloud computing needs.

With its latest update to the Cascade line, which integrates the company’s Cascade Profiler software with its Shark and Pilot products, users will be able to trace performance problems and alerts down from the high-level view of their network down to the packet level.

“We look at this as a search problem,” said Yoav Eliat, director of product marketing at Cascade. “It resembles searching through a map of the country. You start looking at the entire country and then begin to zoom in step by step for a closer look.”

In order for this to translate to a network and application analytics tool, Eliat said, all the data about your network has to be well integrated.

“You might see a performance problem in Seattle that caused the ERP system to turn red,” he said. The Cascade product might determine that the problem was the result of a response time issue with a specific Web server, Eliat added.

At that point, the integrated CACE tool comes into play, as administrators can choose the Web server and drill down into detailed graphs depicting what was collected by packets.

“You can see the exact traits of all the messages that were going back and forth and where it got stuck,” he added.

The CACE tool also features an integrated Wireshark packet analyzing tool button. After an administrator chooses to send its analysis to the open source-based Wireshark software, a separate window will open up and allow for even deeper packet-by-packet analysis.

Another benefit of the product, Eliat said, is that administrators are only transferring a tiny amount of information on their screen when using Cascade. “You’re searching at a summery level,” he said.

This, Eliat added, will avoid the need to transfer gigabits of data across the world if administrators want to remotely analyze data that is recorded in a remote location.

The WAN optimization space has also been a driving force in the data centre consolidation efforts of many enterprises.

The technology continues its main function — making response times faster over WAN links — but now through software that runs on virtual machines it is becoming practical for use in public and private clouds where virtual environments rule. A few years ago, WAN optimization was locked within hardware appliances, but that is no longer the case.

Virtualized versions of the old hardware appliances make it possible to deploy optimization within public cloud provider networks, meaning cloud-based applications respond better. It also means data can be sent in less time to cloud storage facilities where it occupies less disk space (and so costs less) and is secure because it is encrypted.

The flexibility of application use that cloud environments can enable requires infrastructure that can optimize delivery of those applications.

“The network infrastructure won’t change as fast as the applications on them,” which means WAN optimization itself needs to be as portable a possible, says Rob Shaughnessy, CTO at WAN optimization vendor Circadence Corp.

– With files from Tim Greene, Network World U.S.

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