Riverbed Virtualizes Cascade Network Monitoring Line

Riverbed Technology Tuesday confirmed several updates to Cascade, its network performance management product line, including a virtualized version of its Cascade Shark packet analysis offering.

Cascade Shark, which appeared on CRN's list of the Most Innovative Products of 2011, offers both realtime and back-in-time forensic analysis of both network and security events as a way to make troubleshooting easier for IT managers. Now comes Virtual Cascade Shark, which can perform packet capture and performance analysis in virtual environments -- a glove-fit, according to Riverbed executives, for virtualized data centers.

"You've got all this new technology being deployed with a great business promise, and [IT managers] are tasked with figuring out whether these applications running all over the infrastructure are performing well," said Dimitri Vlachos, senior director of marketing for Cascade products at Riverbed. "Everyone is rolling out virtualization. So we can now extend our view in a very operationally efficient way into the virtualized data center."

The other key release in Cascade 9.5 is Cascade Profiler, which monitors service across a customer's application delivery controllers (ADCs). The hook is that by using Cascade, an IT manager can automate the discovery and monitoring of various load-balancing applications. Riverbed's software integrates not only with its own Stingray Traffic Manager but also with well-known ADC products such as F5 Networks' Local Traffic Manager.

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The Cascade update is in line with Riverbed's strategy to grow net-new channel partner sales and expand its existing customer spend with a more unified approach to WAN optimization and other key network and data center functions such as application delivery, load balancing, network monitoring and Web content acceleration. As of last fall, Cascade Shark was fully integrated into Riverbed's Steelhead WAN optimization appliances, limiting the need for partners to sell Cascade Shark as a stand-alone product.

"It's not just about monitoring, but it's about doing these things in a unified way across your IT infrastructure," Vlachos said.

The choice to enable integration between Riverbed's Cascade software and well-known ADC products like F5's isn't an indication of a formal partnership with F5, with which Riverbed is increasingly competing. But it's an acknowledgement, Vlachos said, that many solution providers carry both Riverbed and F5 products and often deploy those products as complements in data center deals.

"We've seen that a lot: Riverbed in the WAN and F5 in the data center," Vlachos said. "But the virtual data center is where F5 isn't as strong, and it's absolutely the right conversation for a channel partner to talk about performance in the WAN, performance in the data center and how all of that ties together."

Virtual Cascade Shark will be available in March along with the broader Cascade 9.5 release. Other new features include multisegment analysis using Cascade Pilot, and tighter VoIP quality reporting in Cascade Profiler.

Riverbed also added precision time-stamping support, in that Cascade Shark can produce nanosecond-length time stamps from SPAN port aggregators for even greater reporting accuracy. Riverbed partnered with companies Gigamon, cPacket and cTap, whose network taps are all supported in Cascade.