Riverbed Accelerates Steelhead WAN Optimization Appliance With RiOS 8.5

Riverbed Technology updated its Steelhead WAN optimization appliance with new software that simplifies the management of hybrid MPLS and Internet networks and optimizes the performance of Microsoft and NetApp applications.

These enhancements, Riverbed said, are delivered through the latest version of its software platform, RiOS 8.5, which was rolled out this week.

In addition to RiOS 8.5, Riverbed introduced a new Steelhead hardware appliance, the CX 255 series, for small to midsize branches. According to Riverbed, the CX 255 series, available next quarter, gets up to 6-Mbps bandwidth capacity, meaning it offers triple the throughput of its predecessors, the Steelhead CX 150 and CX 250.

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Steve Inman, president of VistaOne, a Richmond, Va.-based solution provider and Riverbed partner, said the CX 255 series is a significant release for Riverbed, allowing partners to target smaller or midsize organizations while still being able to scale the appliance for the enterprise.

"We can now go attack markets that, for a long time, weren't attacked by Riverbed," Inman told CRN, noting smaller retail chains as an example.

Riverbed said RiOS 8.5 is meant to help partners and network administrators accelerate application delivery even across the most bandwidth-strapped networks. According to Jess Leroy, vice president of product management at Riverbed, businesses are grappling with more network traffic than ever due to the proliferation of mobile devices and bandwidth-hungry applications, such as video, being deployed by end users.

"The feedback we are getting from customers is overwhelmingly, 'I just don't know what to do with all the data I have to support,' " Leroy said.

Leroy said Riverbed has seen "exponential" growth of traffic, with the average Riverbed customer seeing a growth rate of 23 percent year over year. To combat this, many organizations are adopting hybrid MPLS and Internet networks, for which, Leroy said, RiOS 8.5 has been optimized to support.

The standout feature in RiOS 8.5 -- which Leroy described as Riverbed's "big release for the year" -- is called path selection, which lets IT understand application usage and performance down to the specific application type, and then reroute application flows when performance goes down. In other words, the path selection feature identifies the best network "path" for an application to take in order to reach end users as quickly, and as optimally, as possible.

Leroy said this path selection feature works alongside Riverbed's Quality of Service and deep packet inspection technologies.

"We're identifying all the paths that are available for a branch, so somebody might have an MPLS path, they might have an Internet path, they might have two or three paths available," Leroy said. "So there are lots of different options there. But what we're doing is identifying all these paths, allowing you to create the QoS classes you want, identify the applications, and then decide which applications are going to take which paths."

Beyond path selection, RiOS 8.5 delivers integration with Cascade Profiler 10.0.7, Riverbed's flagship network monitoring and analytics tool, along with new application-level latency that Riverbed said optimizes the performance NetApp's SnapMirror, along with Microsoft applications, including SharePoint 2013.

"SharePoint has become a pretty ubiquitous tool in the enterprise. So Riverbed adding SharePoint Layer 7 acceleration -- that's huge because that's a very widely deployed [application]," said VistaOne's Inman. "And I can kind of look down under the dome and see that there is going to be any number of companies migrating to more SharePoint."

Like the new Steelhead CX 255 series appliance, RiOS 8.5 will be generally available in the third quarter, according to San Francisco-based Riverbed.