Riverbed SteelCenter Aternity Review

We use it to eliminate a lot of the time generally spent troubleshooting. It provides us with more visibility.

How has it helped my organization?

One of the things we wanted to do is we have a number of call centers that are at a disparate, some of them are partners, some of them are owned and operated, and when we have an issue reported from a call center, we could end up with forty people on a phone call trying to figure out what was going on. They're running around, w'ere reporting in individual workstation, this agent says, "Hey, I got this problem and it's over here," and you got to stop and document that. Then they have another guy who says, "I got this problem over here," so you have all these disparate pieces of information that you have manually correlate with a bunch of people on a phone call for hours and hours and hours.

With Aternity you can gather that perspective quickly, it's gathered automatically, so that slow response time or issues with the application, hung workstations or network issues, you get that perspective right away. It eliminates a lot of the time spent troubleshooting.

What is most valuable?

All of it, but it depends on who the end user is. The folks that support the applications, like the signatures that we've developed, it gives them feedback on their application performance. The folks that deal with the IT with their desktop in the call centers like it because it gives them visibility into the desktops that they wouldn't otherwise have. Then the guys that are responsible for our mobile devices like the mobile aspect. The reason they like the features is they didn't have them beforehand - it's visibility they didn't have prior to this tool.

For instance, the folks in the call centers if they wanted to look at a workstation that wasn't performing or was having an issue, they had to go to the workstation or remote into the workstation. They had an agent that kept having issues with her machine and they couldn't tell what was going on, every time they looked at it it'd reboot. With the Aternity tool they were able to see she was actually powering the thing off and then saying, "Hey, I can't do my job," so there were some shenanigans. It gives good visibility into what the behaviour is of the agent interacting with the workstation as well as interacting with the applications.

From the application owners perspective, we have real user monitors out there in the call center and we've got sniffers that capture the transactions as they come across a network, and synthetic transactions and that sort of stuff going on, but it really didn't give them that view from the call center agents workstation. It gives them a more realistic picture of what's going on than from a networks perspective. You're actually now getting it from the workstations perspective. Then the wireless guys, (the people that are dealing with the handhelds), that's just visibility we didn't have and there are a number of tools. Since we already had Aternity deployed in the call center, it was a natural extension.

What needs improvement?

Signature development process requires deep technical expertise in the application and in the use of their studio tools that help you create it. I know they're aware of that and I know they're focused on making stuff simpler. I think in version nine we'll probably see improvements. That's the biggest thing for us, and unless you're creating those signatures on a daily basis, that needs to be your full-time job to maintain the expertise to do it properly. We're still depending on their professional services to help us with that.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

In v7, we had some stability issues and those all got resolved, but the first six months of being up we had some stability issues. Now we're on v8, and looking to upgrade to v9. So far, it has been rock solid. It's completely stable, I can't believe it's stable as it is.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Well we overbuild. Our environment is overbuilt, we're built to handle twice the workload that we have. Our model is you live and die by your peaks. All of our stuff is built to handle those peaks. That's just a natural for us, we overbuild it. We haven't had workload related issues.

How are customer service and technical support?

It was good. One of the things that just for me, I came from a field service background, I worked for Digital Equipment back in the '80's and '90's, and there when you provided customer service you had a fifteen minute call back time. Nowadays you send an email or open a ticket online and you hear back in four hours and so your primary communication mechanism is by email or by updating a ticket on a website. I like phone calls, and that's just a general trend in the industry. I like a phone call back, but that's not anything anybody's doing, so that seems to be lacking in the industry. There are no better or worse than any other, as far as response time.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We didn't use a different solution.

How was the initial setup?

It was straightforward. We used their professional services to do it because we hadn't been exposed to it before, and our environment is sizable. It's not like we installed the app on one box, it's broken up into six components plus an Oracle backend database, so it's a pretty sizable implementation. It's not that complex to manage and maintain. Regarding the installation - unless you're doing it every day, you probably want their professional services to help you.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated some different solutions. One that we looked at was more for agent behaviour evaluation than it was for monitoring. The analysis there was too deep for our purposes. We wanted the instrumentation that would tell us when there's an issue, and you can certainly do that with both tools, but the other tool is a lot more about understanding that agent's individual actions, and it was just a different tool. We do have other tools, there's RUM and Synthetic Transactions going on as well. This was an enhancement to that.

What other advice do I have?

The first thing I would do is the application owners need to put monitoring and managing the signature set, or the monitor set, that you develop for the applications into their release process. When you do a release for an application, you need to include developing and testing the existing monitors, testing the existing monitors and fixing them if the application breaks them and if the release breaks them. You need to manage your monitors along with the application releases.

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
2 visitors found this review helpful
author avatarPaul Truhe

I agree with everything except signature development requirements. In my experience, all that is required is an understanding of how client and browser based applications operate. That and either access to the application or a good recording with a subject matter expert. But beyond my prior development experience, I had just come off a single sign-on implementation and it accessed the user interface in the same manner so that helped.

author avatarEngineer at a healthcare company with 10,001+ employees
Real User

Great review and advice. I agree with both of you on signature development but for me it depends on the application. We have over 2,000 applications developed in house and while some are fairly easy some are not. We haven't included Aternity in the release process but we have worked with some developers and they attended training with us. The hope is that they will completely own the development of signatures for the applications they support

author avatarEngineer at a healthcare company with 10,001+ employees
Real User

Is everyone aware that Aternity now has a User Forum on Riverbed?
You can find it on the Riverbed forumn under SteelCentral and then Aternity
The link is splash.riverbed.com/community/product-lines/steelcentral/steelcentral-aternity

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