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Riverbed Virtualizes Cascade

Riverbed Technology has introduced Cascade 9.5, an upgraded version of its network management tool that aggregates information from a number of Riverbed network appliances--physical and virtual--into a single management console. Among the new features of Cascade 9.5 is Virtual Cascade Shark, the virtual version of Riverbed's physical appliance, which sees into the virtual switching layer within a virtual machine environment in a way the physical Shark appliance cannot, says Riverbed.

The new version of Cascade comes just two months after the WAN optimization market leader released a major upgrade to the RiOS 7--the software that powers its line of Steelhead application acceleration appliances--and Steelhead Mobile client software, adding optimizations for video, disaster recovery applications, ICA over SSL and enterprise applications, as well as IPv6.

The new features include tight integration with Riverbed's Stingray traffic manager and F5's BipIP so that Cascade can perform multisegment analysis correlating individual connections to a virtual IP (VIP) address associated with connections to hosts in a server pool. With multisegment analysis, IT can correlate traffic issues like dropped packets, delay and other issues with an end user session. Without such correlation, monitoring application performance across the load balancer is difficult. Other load balancers are supported, but the configuration in Stingray is a manual process.

The need to manage the growth and increasing complexity of networks is driving demand for network performance management technology that can monitor traffic, identify possible bottlenecks and intervene to clear them up. As use of IT grows in enterprises so does demand on IT to deliver more capacity and speed over the WAN and to be able to prioritize traffic. For example, video gets priority over a simple email, but a VoIP call gets priority over video if the video in question is something frivolous on You Tube.

The data center is undergoing a radical transformation. Data centers are being consolidated as virtualization technology is more widely adopted. Network pipelines need to expand to handle more traffic, particularly high-bandwidth video. And as applications are increasingly being distributed over the Web, more attention has to be paid to how well the network delivers those apps.

Wrap all of this with a virtualization layer, and application performance management and monitoring gets difficult. Virtual Cascade Shark, which currently runs only on VMware ESX hypervisors, is a virtualized version of Cascade, offering visibility into traffic flows between virtual machines in a hypervisor. Cascade Virtual Shark pricing starts at $1,200. The Cascade Shark appliance now integrates with intelligent taps from companies like Gigamon, cTap and VSS, relying on their timestamps for latency measurements.

All of that is happening at the same time, and network administrators are pushed to understand the applications that run over the network and how well they are performing. While virtualization has greatly improved the efficiency of data centers by increasing server utilization, it has created "another blind spot for network managers," says Jim Frey, managing research director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).

"There could be traffic that goes on inside a hypervisor between multiple virtual machines, and unless you have a means for gaining visibility into that hypervisor, you have no way to understand what's happening in terms of the traffic between those VMs," Frey says.

Other Riverbed management appliances that interact with Cascade 9.5 include the Stingray application delivery controller--which the company said is more commonly known and a load balancer--the Whitewater cloud storage gateway and the Steelhead WAN optimization appliance.

Steelhead appliances could sit on the network at various branch offices and send WAN performance data to be aggregated by another Steelhead appliance in the data center, with the results then presented in the Cascade management console.

The network performance management solutions market is "pretty healthy and growing," says EMA's Frey, with startups seeing revenue growth of 20% to 40% or more annually and even more mature firms--publicly traded companies like Riverbed and NetScout Systems--reporting low double-digit revenue increases.

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