Riverbed SteelCenter Aternity Review

Great at identifying trends underlying in large amounts of data.

Valuable Features

It's a monitoring tool. Specifically, it monitors very well the ability to sort large amounts of data into something that is actionable. Once you know how to use it, it's very good at identifying trends underlying in large amounts of data.

It's used to monitor our application performance. Desktop health, network health, things of that nature. We have used it to identify issues impacting large amounts of end users with applications, issues with our network, issues with our group policy setups or exchange, all sorts of stuff.

Improvements to My Organization

We've built a task force that I was the head of to resolve some longstanding issues with our existing Windows 7 image. The Aternity application was a key product in helping us not only identify the issue, or at least quantify the issue and begin to narrow down the likely causes of it, but it also allowed us to measure how successful we were at implementing changes, moving the needle in the right direction. It's helped us stabilize our exchange environment.

The latest thing we did with it, specifically, was track down an issue in which our end users were disconnecting from Exchange on a alarmingly frequent basis. It allowed us to figure out what was going on, implement a solution, and then validate the solution was in fact working.

Room for Improvement

The product itself is actually extremely solid. The support of Aternity, specifically their client success management and after-sales support and training leave a lot to be desired. They've gotten better with my last engagement with them, which was beginning in May.

We're still ongoing with a little bit of training. We recently switched from their on-premise Aternity 7 version to their cloud SaaS-based Aternity 9 product. Largely, once you get the product and you have it set up and get it installed, the relationship management after-sales leaves a lot to be desired. The product itself is actually really, really fantastic.

Between the Aternity 7 and the Aternity 9 version, they've made a whole repolish of the UI. They rethought the entire UI to make it usable for folks that haven't spent 40 to 60 hours training in the product, like I have.

We're getting a lot more value out of the product from every single level of IT, all the way from our service desk up to our executives and back down. They've done a very good job at innovating on the product. It's more so the support and professionalism of their client success managers and after-call support that leave a lot to be desired.

Their product is a 10. The support is a five. I'm going to average them out to about a seven and a half to an eight. I hope they're able to continue to improve. I want to make clear they have improved and I've been much more impressed with their support recently than I was over the last three years.

I hope that's not a function of an ongoing engagement and additional large sum of money that we've tossed at them in order to set up the new product. If they can improve on their support, then they would be in a really, really good position.

Use of Solution

I have been using this product for close to three years.

Stability Issues

We did have some issues with the SQL database side of the product, when it first stood up, and the application server would lock up. Not always, but there was a period of maybe six to eight months when the application server - or the IAS services specifically - would stop functioning, or we would get some deadlocks on the database. It was a task to deal with Aternity support to really identify those particular issues, but overall, the stability of the product was pretty good. I think we'll have less of those issues now that we don't have to maintain our own servers. It's all handled in the cloud. I imagine that since it's a high-availability service, considering it's a cloud-based application, that we will likely not see those issues moving forward. If we do, I won't have to fix them.

Scalability Issues

I have not had any scalability issues at all. The deployment of the actual monitoring agent is probably the easiest thing we've deployed through SCCM in years. It's very, very simple. It's easy for us to upgrade. It's silent. It doesn't impact the end user when we install it. It's extremely scalable. We currently have it monitoring all of our end user workstations, which is approximately 1,600 computers.

We do have it on some of our servers, but not all. We're looking to scale that up in the new environment, which will equate to roughly 800 servers, as well as another 12 to 15 for our Citrix infrastructure. Overall, we're close to 3,000 total endpoints being monitored by the product, and it's extremely easy to install and configure. We package it. We put it in SCCM and it installs. It's really, really simple.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Recently, technical support has been fantastic. Prior to us being involved in an ongoing engagement with them, it was a little rough. We had to constantly follow back up with them. My calls and emails, depending on urgency, were not necessarily met with what I believe would be an acceptable SLA, especially considering the expense of the product. It's not a cheap product by any way, shape for form. Recently, the engagements that I've had with them have been far improved. We had two particular issues with the product when we moved to the Aternity 9 environment.

The first one, the installation of the agent itself removed a couple of registry values on our end users machines that caused a piece of our Citrix to not function for our entire environment. They not only identified the issue, provided me a solution I could deploy over group policy within less than three hours, but they also delivered me a new agent version the next day that had the issue resolved, which I was extremely impressed with. I had a four-hour down time. They did a really, really good job of taking care of that for me.

Then I had an issue where the application was not displaying fully correctly in Internet Explorer. Once I submitted the ticket for that, and it was a lower priority, they contacted me within 24 hours, and we had a solution implemented within 48 hours. I would say they're definitely trending in the right direction. My hope is that it doesn't fall off once we're done with our active projects.

Previous Solutions

Previously, we had several monitoring applications, but nothing that really is able to draw a large picture the way that Aternity is. Did we use other products? Yes. To any level of success? Definitely not. There's really not anything like it on the market that we've been able to find. The algorithms that it uses and the ability to aggregate such a large amount of information in a way that make it really, really easy to use for every member of IT. I use this product every single day. I'm probably the most knowledgeable user of the product, and it's extremely powerful. I really don't know of anything on the market that's like it. The product is phenomenal. I really can't speak highly enough about how powerful the product is, and recently they cleared the one major hurdle with the product in that it wasn't very user friendly.

Initial Setup

The on-premise setup was relatively complex. The transition to the cloud platform was really easy. Really, really, easy. One, because the professional services team did all of it for us, but just by the nature of the product and how it functions, the setup of it is always going to be somewhat complex. Specifically, in designing the signatures and the monitors for very specific activities and actions that are undertaken within an application, or on a server. There's always going to be a level of complexity.

Once you set it up, it's very, very easy to maintain. It's considerably easier to maintain when you don't have to maintain your servers, which is where we're at now. There is always an inherent level of complexity, but the upgrade from our on-premise environment to the cloud-based was extremely easy. They were able to import all of our existing settings, with a few exceptions, into it. The training on it has been absolutely fantastic. It's pretty easy. They even gave us training on how to author and signature the monitors themselves, which has allowed us to expand our ability to support and customize the application in real time in a way that allows us to get more out of the product then we were already doing. We were already getting a very large amount of value out of the product.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
1 Comment
Engineer at a healthcare company with 10,001+ employeesReal 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

17 July 17
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