Riverbed has announced the latest version of its SD-WAN product line, SteelConnect 2.0. The new version combines both SD-WAN and WAN acceleration capabilities, and Riverbed says organizations can replace their branch routers with SteelConnect.
SteelConnect 2.0 will be generally available in October 2016.
Riverbed is one of several incumbents making a play in the SD-WAN market, including Silver Peak, Citrix, and Cisco. And that’s going to make it hard for Riverbed to stand out.
Every advantage the company can claim (existing customer relationships, established track record as a vendor, and integration with other products in its portfolio), can also be claimed by Silver Peak, Citrix, and Cisco.
Riverbed is also digesting its Ocedo acquisition, and trying to build a new business around selling branch switches and Wi-Fi gear.
And in the time it’s taken Riverbed to go from developing an SD-WAN strategy to delivering SD-WAN products, several startups have anchored themselves in the SD-WAN market.
But while Riverbed might be a step behind its competition, I think the company has recognized both the enormous growth potential in SD-WAN, and that WAN optimization, in the long run, is likely to be a feature not a product.
In that regard, Riverbed is taking the right steps to orient itself toward the growth market. And while it’s not abandoning its legacy business, it also won’t let its future be defined by it, either.
SteelConnect combines technology from Riverbed as well as hardware and software from Ocedo, which Riverbed acquired in early 2016.
SteelConnect follows the familiar template of other SD-WAN products. First are the branch gateways (both physical and virtual), which are deployed at branch and remote offices.
The gateway devices terminate both private (typically MPLS) and broadband network connections at the branch. Administrators create policies to send applications over a specific connection. For example, VoIP traffic might always use MPLS, while Web surfing uses the broadband connection.
Riverbed says it can identify 1,300 different applications via deep packet inspection, allowing for fine-grained path selection. And if an application’s primary path goes down, traffic will switch to a secondary path automatically.
Second, branch gateways are managed from a centralized device, deployed either in your data center or in the cloud, where administrators define and push out policies.
As mentioned above, Riverbed is adding native routing capabilities to its SteelConnect appliances, and says organizations can dump their branch routers entirely.
CTO Hansang Bae said in an interview that the gateways currently support BGP, but Riverbed hasn’t exposed it to customers yet; that’s expected to happen by the end of this year. OSPF support is expected in the first half of 2017.
Riverbed is also integrating WAN optimization capabilities into SteelConnect. The company anticipates being able to run its SteelHead WAN optimization software on the same appliance as SteelConnect by November 2016.
The company also launched two new gateway models, the SDI-1030 (1Gbps throughput) and the SDI-5030 (10Gbps throughput).
The company already offered two smaller hardware units, the SDI-130 (1Gbps) and the SDI-330 (2Gbps) as well as a virtual appliance. The virtual appliance is compatible with VMware, Hyper-V, KVM, Citrix, VirtualBox, and AWS. The company also plans to support Microsoft Azure.
CTO Bae said up to 500 branch gateways can be operated from one central management device, and that number should go up to the thousands by 2017.