Riverbed Steelhead Review

Scalable Data Referencing provides LAN-like speed over WAN

What is our primary use case?

You should buy SteelHead for WAN optimization because it delivers more. WAN optimization is the process of increasing data throughput and improving the network and application performance over the WAN. This is what Riverbed SteelHead helps with. If you face a latency issue or slow application performance, go for this solution.

What is most valuable?

The first feature that is valuable is SDR, Scalable Data Referencing. Suppose you have two offices, one based in India and the other one is in the U.S., which is where the data center is. If an engineer is working from India and accessing an application from there, downloading or uploading files or folders over the file server or other applications, SDR will cache the data on the SteelHead device itself. The second time, he won't need to go via the WAN. He will be able to download the file locally. He will feel he is getting LAN-like speed over the WAN.

The second valuable feature is the compression.

The third valuable feature is the TCP optimization. Every time protocols are communicating with each other, every time they establish a connection, three is a three-way handshake. For UDP there is no handshaking because it is connection-less. But TCP does the three-way handshake before delivering any information to the application. The optimization feature caches a particular TCP connection and the next time a user uses that connection he will reach the destination easily.

What needs improvement?

Application response time and network performance could be improved.

Allot, an Israel-based organization, is offering DDoS attack prevention, not mitigation but prevention; threat response. If Riverbed would offer DDoS or IPS-type stuff, that would be great. Because we are deploying Riverbed in inline mode, we can easily take advantage of these kinds of features.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with Riverbed SteelHead for more than 15 years. I have a lot of experience with it. I have implemented it many times, both on-prem and in the cloud, around the world.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is very stable. If you check the industry reviews, you will see that it is number-one for WAN optimization.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is easily scalable. I have implemented it in SMBs and in enterprise-level companies.

How are customer service and technical support?

Overall, Riverbed provides satisfactory support.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is very straightforward. It is not complex. It is a very simple device. It is like an L2 device, and you can easily install it into a network. It can be deployed in inline mode, but there are some methods for deploying this appliance into a network. The first is the physical, meaning inline mode. The second is virtual. And the third is the server-side, where you can deploy this device with the switch nearest to the server, and the client-side is deployed in in-line mode.

Every SteelHead deployment always involves deploying two appliances. One appliance on its own will not work because SteelHead always works in pairs. If your organization has five branch offices, and one is the data center, you will need to deploy a SteelHead in each branch office to get the benefit of WAN optimization. 

The number of people needed for deployment depends on how far apart the locations are. If the locations are not very far apart, one person can fully deploy the product. If there are distant remote locations, you will need a person in each location.

The deployment time is three to four hours, maximum. It's very easy to install. You only need to run some commands, then go to the UI and do some configuration.

What other advice do I have?

I would 100 percent advise others to implement this product. When potential customers ask us why they should buy SteelHead instead of just increasing their bandwidth from 10 Mbps to 20 Mbps, we tell them that doing so does not eliminate protocol chattiness. The reason behind this is that the TCP three-way handshake will happen at 10 Mbps and at 20 Mbps as well. If you have 20 applications in your environment and your users are accessing those applications, there is a lot of protocol chattiness going on. Upgrading bandwidth will not eliminate it. If you buy SteelHead, you can eliminate the protocol chattiness, and all the different kinds of handshaking. 

Every protocol is very chatty. CIFS, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, applications that are running on port 445, use a protocol that is very chatty as well.

Also, Riverbed recently started offering SD-WAN. The SteelConnect appliance delivers SD-WAN service and can easily provide routing, application visibility, security services, and WAN optimization. Riverbed has also started delivering a next-generation firewall which is completely an application firewall.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Reseller/Distributor.
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