Riverbed Force 2014: New SteelHead Solution, Technology Alliance Program

Riverbed introduced a new version of its SteelHead WAN optimization appliance that features increased application-specific automation for hybrid networks and hybrid clouds.

The company also created a new version of its technology alliance program aimed at making it easy for other technology developers and customers to build solutions that tie into its entire product line.

The news was introduced at the Riverbed Force conference, which is being held this week in San Jose, Calif.

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Together, the two moves make it seem that Riverbed is making a software-defined data center play, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and Riverbed partner.

"The moves appear to be more focused on Riverbed's ecosystems than on its competitors," Woodall told CRN. "In a world with so many orchestration and automation frameworks, Riverbed needs one that others can plug into."

Automation is often thought of as a scaling issue, and it is, Woodall said. "But it also takes the human error factor out of the picture, and that's important," he said.

Riverbed also is moving to get operational visibility into its solution, a move Woodall called important.

"Riverbed is trying to keep that capability in-house," he said. "If it can do the analytics without third-party tools, that's easier for Riverbed. And it leverages where the company is strong."

Version 9.0 of the SteelHead WAN optimization appliance will be integrated with the company's SteelCentral AppResponse 9.5 software to make it easier to gain visibility when troubleshooting to SteelHead-optimized and non-optimized enterprise Web and SaaS applications.

Irina Farooq, senior director of product management at San Francisco-based Riverbed, said the new version will help simplify the control of hybrid networks where customers have a variety of links.

It also will provide improved visibility into hybrid clouds, Farooq told CRN.

"Customers are still in a transition to the hybrid cloud, and have a mix of private and public Internet links," she said. "Lost in this transition is trying to figure out how to manage the transition."

NEXT: More On SteelHead 9.0, And The New Riverbed Technology Alliance

Riverbed's solution for managing the transition centers on SteelHead, which solves a lot of challenges related to multiple connectivity, Farooq said.

SteelHead 9.0 offers improvements to make adding policy-based control to services easier, providing improved simplicity for hybrid networks and improved visibility into hybrid clouds, she said.

For hybrid networks, SteelHead 9.0, either in its physical form or as a virtual appliance, looks at the application to configure and manage path selection, quality of service and Secure Transport, which is a SteelHead VPN that allows customers to selectively encrypt traffic for any set of uplinks, Farooq said. "SteelHead looks at the applications and defines the policies," she said.

For hybrid clouds, SteelHead 9.0 now does monitoring and troubleshooting for SaaS and Web-based applications. It can differentiate between network vs. server issues, with the information gleaned from the monitoring being sent on to SteelCentral AppResponse 9.5 to do analytics. "We have the ability to help customers understand where their problem is," she said.

Riverbed's move to add automated policies is exciting, said Tom Holt, vice president of sales at Bedrock Technology Partners, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based solution provider and Riverbed partner.

"Our clients are continually looking at how to manage their environments as they relate to the cloud, and I don't see any stopping of that," Holt told CRN.

The new Riverbed-Ready Technology Alliance program, meanwhile, makes it easy for third-party technology developers to leverage Riverbed products to develop tested, verified and supported Riverbed-ready solutions, said Jerome Noll, director of technology alliances for Riverbed.

"We want to create a large ecosystem around our Riverbed acceleration technology," Noll told CRN.

Under the program, Riverbed and its partners will jointly market the integrated solutions with channel collateral and demand-generation programs, and will ensure their channel and sales reps are in alignment as far as possible solutions, Noll said.

Riverbed and its partners will work together via the Riverbed Solution Center website to market solutions to customers and channel partners, and will offer not-for-resale discounts on appliances and software licenses for testing and development.

"This reboots our old alliance program, which was based on SteelHead WAN optimization," Noll said. "But our line has grown since then. It made sense to improve the program based on our broad line."

NEXT: Riverbed's Technology Partners For Building New Solutions

Riverbed's technology partners can leverage Riverbed's APIs to create new solutions or can do more specific engineering based on Riverbed's technology for more tightly integrated solutions, Noll said.

The 16 partners in the Riverbed-Ready Technology Alliance program include Anuta Networks, APCON, Apposite, Arista Networks, Big Switch, Cloudian, cPacket, Cyphort, Elfiq Networks, Garland Technologies, GNS3, Interface Masters, Ixia, Keynote, VBrick and Zscaler.

Bedrock's Holt said his company already works with several companies on that list and knows how to sell and deploy them, making the new potential technology alliances good news for Bedrock.

The ability to pull technology partners together is a good defensive move for Riverbed and its partners, Holt said.

"They are competing against the big boys," he said. "It's better if they work together."

Noll said Riverbed expects up to 30 technology partners to join the program by year-end, and up to 100 by late 2015.