While it might seem like we’re about to change our site name to SearchWANOptimizationVendorsFighting.com, I assure you it’s just coincidence. Riverbed and its rivals have had a lot to say lately, and that’s at least in part because of greater competition in their market space, though it’s not getting as much play as other hot markets like SaaS and clustered NAS.
According to Forrester analyst Rob Whiteley, with whom I’ve spoken during the whole Riverbed/AutoCAD debacle, the one incontrovertible point that can be taken out of all the back and forth is that users can no longer just evaluate this gear on price. WAN optimization and wide-area data services have become more strategic markets than when they started, and there’s going to be more fine-grained differentiation between products in this space going forward.
Another trend in this market was identified by Blue Coat’s CEO as well as Brocade officials when speaking about the acquisition of Packeteer and Brocade’s discontinuation of WAFS products, respectively. That is that WAN optimization is growing to encompass a number of fields originally thought of as separate disciplines, whether it’s WAFS being combined with network security or TCP/IP acceleration meeting quality of service. As Brocade’s spokesperson put it, “the WAFS and WAN optimization markets are converging and our customers are looking for a much broader set of functionality beyond just WAFS for remote site IT management.”
Sensing this, it would seem, Riverbed has chosen to partner with other companies to expand its capabilities. It disclosed in February that it would be adding the Riverbed Services Platform (RSP) of services for remote offices on its Steelhead appliances, and this week added network optimization services to the RSP platform. Riverbed’s latest additions are what it calls new “visibility partners” to broaden Steelhead’s WAN optimization features. Partners supplying network visibility features such as traffic monitoring, application performance monitoring and policy enforcement include Opnet, CompuWare, NetScout, Solar Winds and Opsware.
The Steelhead central management console (CMC) was also brushed up with the release of version 5.0 this week. Despite the dot-oh, it’s an incremental upgrade with the addition of the ability to create groups of appliances for policy envforcement and more granular access control roles.
Riverbed’s Alan Saldich pointed out that Riverbed’s going the partnering route because customers might already have another product they want to use with Riverbed. This could be seen as a subtle comment on Blue Coat’s plans for Packeteer, which consist of folding Packeteer’s IP into a platform existing Packeteer customers may not be familiar with. Of course it will remain to be seen which approach will win, but this new, wider context for WAN optimization is something users should consider. If they can hear themselves think over all the bickering, that is.