Riverbed update focuses on improving UC and end-user device experience

Building on a flurry of announcements it made a month ago at its Disrupt event, application performance company Riverbed Technology has updated SteelCentral as part of its overall strategy to expand, integrate and simplify application performance management (APM).

Riverbed has updated a number of SteelCentral platform components, said director product marketing Erik Hille, including SteelCentral AppResponse 11, SteelCentral Packet Analyzer Plus, SteelCentral Transaction Analyzer Plus, SteelCentral UCExpert, SteelCentral NetIM and SteelCentral Aternity, which is a result of a recent acquisition announced at the Disrupt event.

Two key focus areas on are unified communications (UC) and expanding end-user experience management capabilities to better address the evolving demands that new devices, he said, and the update includes SteelCentral AppResponse 11, which combines the capabilities of AppResponse and NetShark to providing network forensics and analytics, and application analytics. Hille said the updated AppResponse increases the richness of performance metrics available to users, by providing access to finer grained transaction data for which users were previously forced to access packet analysis; this speeds up analysis and decreases mean time to resolution. “It’s meant to support a wide range of users. Both novices and experts can use it.”

Hille said identifying the root causes of network and infrastructure-based UC degradations is very complex and time-consuming, so the UCExpert multi-vendor UC monitoring component of SteelCentral now includes intelligent path analysis troubleshooting so IT staff can monitor the entire call path for a specific call and all the relevant performance metrics, including the device, network, and specific settings impacting the service between the caller and receiver.

He said applications break for a lot of reasons, including code errors, memory leaks, network congestion, and users feel as though they are in the dark as to why their application is running slowly or not available.

SteelCentral Aternity is addressing device-based experience management, said Hille, and the update introduces side-by-side analytics that enable support teams to validate the impact of strategic change initiatives, such as a Windows 10 migration, before a full enterprise rollout. “It’s kind of a take on change management, if you will.” Teams are able to mitigate the risk of costly application and device roll-backs while validating the impact of change on application and device health, including enterprise Mac devices. “Mac adoption is growing quite rapidly,” he said. “Apple provides no enterprise-class device performance monitoring application.”

Julie Craig, research director for application management at Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. (EMA), said the SteelCentral update is an example of how Riverbed continues to integrate across the product line, including Aternity, as well as focusing on simplifying and enriching the user experience while enhancing cloud and mobile support. She said the Aternity acquisition “was truly a coup” on Riverbed’s part, since few vendors have technology similar to Aternity’s, which gathers in-depth insight into the user experience at the endpoint by embedding monitoring agents in each endpoint device.

Shamus McGillicuddy, EMA senior analyst for network management, said the SteelCentral update is about simplification and modernization. “Riverbed is consolidating a lot of tools, which should make it easier for IT operations to use the products. The consolidation of NetShark and AppResponse will be valuable to both application managers and network operations.”

He said this consolidation will enable application teams to click down from a service-level view to a packet analysis level view in a single workflow, while network operations working within NetShark will have more application fluency available to their packet analysis workflow. Riverbed is replacing several older products with one integrated product for configuration management, performance monitoring and troubleshooting.

The company’s Disrupt news in September was primarily focused on SteelConnect branch networking solution, which includes SD-WAN, and branch LAN/WLAN. McGillicuddy said one of its key value proposition Riverbed emphasizes is integrated visibility for service assurance, and EMA research has found that integrated application and network performance monitoring is highly valued feature for early SD-WAN adopters, he said. “By weaving SteelConnect and SteelCentral together, Riverbed is addressing these requirements directly. These new enhancements to SteelCentral should buttress that vision even further.”

Riverbed’s approach is line with what’s going on in the broader market, said McGillicuddy, several other network infrastructure vendors have introduced features that provide integrated visibility in their network devices, mostly in the form of streaming telemetry from data center switches and routers. “Riverbed is doing something analogous in the WAN. Going forward, it will be important for Riverbed to clearly articulate the benefits of integrated visibility in its infrastructure solutions. I think many IT organizations will appreciate this capability.”

In general, McGillicuddy said how enterprises select tools is driven by what they are already using and the skills their people have, as well as there business requirements. “There have always been a huge variety of IT management products on the market.” Pricing, pricing, scalability, projected growth and cloud strategy all factor into adoption, he said. EMA research has found that network operations teams are more effective when they use fewer network management tools, something the firm recommends.

Riverbed is aggressively integrating APM and NPM products, added McGillicuddy, something many IT organizations will welcome, especially if they have cross-domain operations teams and an integrated approach to tool acquisition, although others may not be ready for such an approach.

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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