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Steelhead OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

Steelhead is the #4 ranked solution in our list of top WAN Optimization tools. It is most often compared to WAAS: Steelhead vs WAAS

What is Steelhead?

Riverbed SteelHead CX is the industry's #1 WAN optimization solution. SteelHead CX is proven to dramatically speed up the performance of applications anywhere in the organization while delivering the best end-user experience even under sub optimal network conditions. Reduce bandwidth utilization by up to 95%, deferring costly network bandwidth upgrades. Increase performance by up to 100x for on-premises applications.

Steelhead is also known as RIverbed Steelhead.

Buyer's Guide

Download the WAN Optimization Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: October 2021

Steelhead Customers

ElAraby, SFK Leblanc, Bobst Group, Northwest Pipe Company, Halkbank, Tradebridge, EFG Hermes

Steelhead Video

Archived Steelhead Reviews (more than two years old)

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it_user421635
Sr. IT Infrastructure and Systems Engineer at a energy/utilities company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
Many of our offshore installation are on low bandwidth but this has really helped to optimize the network.

Valuable Features

First of all we are great fan of Riverbed WAN optimization feature which I would say is the most valuable for us as we have couple of low bandwidth scenarios. Apart from this we are using specific Office 365 optimization since we are using Exchange online. We also use EX functionality of the box where we host our VM servers.

Improvements to My Organization

Many of our offshore installation are on low bandwidth but this has really helped to optimize the network which basically means we are able to achieve faster data connection or link.

Room for Improvement

There are issues with the tech support and scalability.

Deployment Issues

We have had no issues with the deployment.

Stability Issues

We have had no issues with the stability.

Scalability Issues

The device mostly comes with a standard configuration with no options to upgrade the hardware. This means that we need to go ahead with a new or high end model in case the infra changes happen.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Riverbed needs to really work on local support when it comes to technical knowledge transfer. They need to have teams who can give proper knowledge transfer to customers so that they can use the device in best ways

Other Advice

Riverbed is great product and base functionality of these devices which is WAN optimization is handled by them in best and intelligent way.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Security Technical Analyst at a government with 10,001+ employees
Vendor
The data reduction was fantastic, saved the company I was working for at the time a lot of time and money in upgrading circuits.

What is most valuable?

The data reduction was fantastic, saved the company I was working for at the time a lot of time and money in upgrading circuits.

Management of the device is simple, but has all the technical aspects of a powerful appliance.

How has it helped my organization?

Enabled the company I was working for then the opportunity to centralise file storage, which reduced the cost of Windows server licenses by a massive amount. It also meant that collaboration across branch offices was vastly improved, as it was possible for documents to be stored centrally and open the documents as fast as if they were local... even very large technical drawings.

What needs improvement?

The version of RIOS that I used was very good, and I can't think of anything that needed major improvement at the time. We were using most of the functionality of the appliances, including Citrix optimizations, and it was all very good.

For how long have I used the solution?

It was a few years ago that I was using it, but I was using it for about 5 years

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

None, the performance increase was straight away, the second and subsequent time of opening any document was markedly faster than the first, once the users understood this, it wasn't a problem. Also we learnt to 'pre-warm' the box before deployment, meaning that we could get round the 'first opening delay' somewhat.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

These boxes were always up, very stable, and even upgrades were smooth. I can't think of an instance when the appliance wasn't doing it's job as expected.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

None, the licenses were easy to deploy to upgrade and new appliances were just a drop in replacement. We scaled this up from an initial PoC to a fully fledged production appliance without any issues.

How are customer service and technical support?

Customer Service:

We were with Teneo, and their customer service department was very good, although we dealt mainly with the sales and technical teams.

Technical Support:

Teneos knowledge in house was very good, both the sales force and technical support were brilliant, and when they couldn't deal with it they didn't have a problem referring it direct to Riverbed.

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

No, we went from bare WAN connections to Steelheads, we were running out of capacity on the WAN connections, users were complaining and we needed to centralise their data, we needed to either upgrade or optimize.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was very straight forward, we followed the initial advice of Teneo to start with and then went back and optimized to our own policy over time, as we found better ways of optimizing certain traffic.

What about the implementation team?

Through a vendor initially (Teneo), and then continued deployment in house once we were familiar. Teneos knowledge was excellent and they were extremely helpful.

What was our ROI?

It was very good, we ended up getting about 3x the average bandwidth increase (up to 10x at peak), and to replace with the equivalent IPClear circuits at the time would have meant increasing a majority of lines from 2Mb->5-10Mb. Back when we implemented it this would have run into the realms of about £50,000 plus running costs annually, so over the first year we easily saved that money.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Don't be scared of the pricing, they seem expensive, but in reality the performance of these appliances is astounding. Even a circuit of the equivalent speed would not be as fast due to Riverbeds ability to optimize TCP windows to get 90%+ utilization of a circuit. Licensing was a little confusing when we purchased it, so take advise of what you really need before jumping in and purchasing.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did look at Cisco WAAS at the time, but it was very early technology, and I didn't have confidence in it. We also looked at BlueCoat, but it didn't offer the full acceleration of all the applications that we were after.

What other advice do I have?

Riverbed Steelhead is a brilliant concept, and well executed appliance. It really does do it's job very well and worth the investment.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Find out what your peers are saying about Riverbed, Cisco, Citrix and others in WAN Optimization. Updated: October 2021.
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it_user426486
Senior Infrastructure Engineer at a financial services firm with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
​It's helped ​to reduce WAN traffic by approximately 60%.​

Valuable Features:

I've found the appliance to be the most valuable. Also, it's easy to use and configure.

Improvements to My Organization:

It's helped to reduce WAN traffic by approximately 60%.

Room for Improvement:

I would like to see more IP services, perhaps aligned better Netflow stats. The Central Management Console (CMC) newly named SteelCentral Controller (SCC) has rudimentary netflow capabilities, but it doesn’t have particularly in-depth data. I realize the need for a dedicated NetFlow environment but because the SteelHead technology deal with flow and not IP this is not capable.

Deployment Issues:

We've had no issues with deployment.

Stability Issues:

We've had no issues with stability.

Scalability Issues:

We've had no issues with scalability.

Other Advice:

The SteelHead product is very good, easy to configure, however a home page which can be altered would enhance the gui 

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user421560
Network Engineer at a consumer goods company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
It's improved the stability and throughput of the WAN, especially for remote small branches with low link speed.

What is most valuable?

Easy deployment Fantastic bandwidth optimization Low maintenance requirements

How has it helped my organization?

It's improved the stability and throughput of the WAN, especially for remote small branches with low link speed. Reduced impact to network performance from Windows updates deployment on users PCs.

What needs improvement?

Better logic of the web GUI.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using it for three years.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

We have had no issues with the deployment.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We had some stability problems with a few devices. Probably RAM leaking issue by some processes which caused problem with remote access to the devices trough SSH or…

What is most valuable?

  • Easy deployment
  • Fantastic bandwidth optimization
  • Low maintenance requirements

How has it helped my organization?

It's improved the stability and throughput of the WAN, especially for remote small branches with low link speed. Reduced impact to network performance from Windows updates deployment on users PCs.

What needs improvement?

Better logic of the web GUI.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using it for three years.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

We have had no issues with the deployment.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We had some stability problems with a few devices. Probably RAM leaking issue by some processes which caused problem with remote access to the devices trough SSH or web.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have had no issues scaling it for our needs.

How are customer service and technical support?

I haven't had much experience with Riverbed Technical Support since our devices are managed by outsourcing company.

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

We previously used Cisco WAAS solution.

How was the initial setup?

The deployment of the Riverbed products is very easy and straightforward.

What about the implementation team?

I implemented it myself. The advice is just to follow the vendor instructions.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

What other advice do I have?

Check your network requirements before deploying one of the Riverbed devices. CX255M is more than enough for most of the branch sites with 10-50 people.


Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Senior Software Engineer at a government
Vendor
Through this product, we can easily find the bottlenecks and where the traffic occurs or generated in the network. Not all devices are available for creating the topology.

What is most valuable?

  • MPLS through OSPF
  • VLAN

How has it helped my organization?

Through this product, we can easily find the bottlenecks and where the traffic occurs or generated in the network. It also helps to find the shortest path to send our data from source to destination through the MPLS network. Then, we can handle it through this technology.

What needs improvement?

Not all devices are available for creating the topology as per the need on your network, such as the three switch router or firewall in this product. Nor do they provide help for putting actual and exact data for creating devices as per requirement.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

There have been no issues deploying it.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have had some issues with licence acquisition following a hanging server or power issues. Sometimes it can take a long time to resolve the issue with Riverbed support.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have had no issues

How are customer service and technical support?

7/10

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

We also use OPNET Modeller Academic v14.0 which is free and is easily downloaded and installed on our system. With it, there is no proper way to create the topology unlike in OPNET SP Guru Network Planner 17.0. Things missing from it are the ability to create devices and the inability to create access permissions to upload to the network configuration to my existing network. These need to be uploaded though Wireshark tools, the router or other methods.

How was the initial setup?

It's straightforward to implement.

What about the implementation team?

We had some issues but they were resolved with the help of the vendor team.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Its licensing is for a single machine. If we want to use it on more than one machine, it doesn’t work following the install installed. This should be improved as the cost for a licence is very high and we are unable to purchase this product for using each user.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user421509
Infrastructure Administrator at a logistics company with 501-1,000 employees
Vendor
The compression features are valuable, as at most sites it doubled our effective MPLS bandwidth capabilities for transfers.

Valuable Features:

The compression features are valuable, as at most sites it doubled our effective MPLS bandwidth capabilities for transfers.

Improvements to My Organization:

The graphic designers used to ship burned DVDs with projects to our manufacturing in China, which took around three days one way. Once we had Riverbed at both sites, they were shipping the full projects in less than 12 hours.

When I was using them at a previous job, Riverbed Steelhead models were grouped into tiers.  Each tier had three models, low to high.  Through upgrade packs of RAM, CPU, HDDs, or a combination thereof, you could upgrade the lowest model in the tier to the middle or the high, or the middle model to the high model.  If you needed to go above the highest model in a tier do to things like needing more drive space, the box needing to deal with more bandwidth, or the box dealing with more concurrent connections, you had to get a whole new appliance from the next tier up and start the process over again. This means unless you had another site you could move the original appliance to, you basically had to rip and replace and lose your investment in the original box.

Room for Improvement:

I didn't like the way platforms were scaled – if you started with a top end model of one of the tiers, if you needed to upgrade you had to rip and replace the box with a whole new one.

Deployment Issues:

We had no issues with the deployment.

Stability Issues:

We have had no issues with the stability.

Scalability Issues:

We had issues upgrading when we wanted to scale.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Network Administrator at a construction company with 51-200 employees
Vendor
Easily, we were able to determine source/destination and how much data they have used.

What is most valuable?

Aside from optimizing WAN connections between our remote offices and the home office, the charts/real-time graphs proved to be valuable during troubleshooting over-utilization issues. Easily, we were able to determine source/destination and how much data they have used.

How has it helped my organization?

We've increased throughput between remote offices, increasing our efficiency.

It provides easy-to-read data to review troubles within the network which allowed us to resolve the issue much quicker.

What needs improvement?

Personally, my expertise with this device I feel is too low to determine what areas could be improved. I did use this device for 3+ years while with another job and administered the web interface and even jumped into the CLI with support at times. However, I have no professional training.

For how long have I used the solution?

3+ years

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

No issues with deployment of this hardware. Although I believe it may not be recommended the device is essentially plug-n-play, meaning the database will determine what networks to optimize without you having to specify every subnet.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

At times, like all network devices there were issues, but support was there to help us understand/resolve any issues that we could not handle. Even if it meant RMA, we would receive a new Steelhead the next day and be able to replace it.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I did not deal much with scaling as the network didn't grow while I was there, but we did have the Riverbed CMC (I believe is the acronym - central management console?) Having this would have made scaling easy, I assume.

How are customer service and technical support?

Customer Service:

Customer service was what I would expect out of every company. They took care of us when we needed them to, including replacing the device with minimal questions.

Technical Support:

Tech support was great as well, they were able to remote into my computer and then use the putty session from there to gather information needed or resolve the issue.

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

I am not aware of the company using any other solution. When I joined they were already using Riverbed Steelhead.

How was the initial setup?

I was not there for the initial setup, but I did replace one remote office steelhead and that was easy to do

What about the implementation team?

I implemented through a in-house one, no rating to give to a vendor team. We handled everything if it was over our heads we had their tech support.

What was our ROI?

I would not know this information as I was only dealing with the administration of the device. These devices were extremely valuable as when one went down or optimization turned off, everyone noticed.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I would not have valuable / correct information on pricing or licensing as I did not handle that portion. I'm sure like anything, if you want all the bells and whistles expect to pay some $$.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

No other options were evaluated, to my knowledge. I am not even aware of other WAN optimizers. I'm sure there are some, when the time comes I'm sure I'll do some research.

What other advice do I have?

No additional comments or advice regarding Riverbed Steelhead. The devices were great, and proved to be a very valuable asset to the company.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user413427
Senior Network Engineer at a energy/utilities company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
The reports available through the interface are very helpful to understand how effective the solution is working.

Valuable Features

The reports available through the interface are very helpful to understand how effective the solution is working. I was able to validate the data as well with other external monitoring tools.

Improvements to My Organization

The data reduction that we realize (>85% for our most common protocols) is amazing. This almost doubled our available bandwidth at our remote locations and when bandwidth restrictions exist already at remote sites, this was a huge business benefit.

Room for Improvement

The advertised “fail open” feature doesn’t work as expected. When upgrading and a reboot is necessary, I expected the traffic to still flow without a single packet loss. This was not the case unfortunately and neighborship was changed during the reboot. Granted, it was brief (about 7 seconds), but it still was not what I expected.

Use of Solution

We've been using it for approximately nine years.

Deployment Issues

The deployment is pretty straightforward and pretty easy.

Stability Issues

We've had no issues with the stability of the product.

Scalability Issues

There have been no issues it scaling it for our need.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Very high; the support team handling the Steelhead issues is very trained and knowledgeable on the product. At times, the request for logs and diags can be cumbersome.

Initial Setup

It was straightforward.

Implementation Team

In-house. My advice is to read the implementation guide cover to cover. It’s not a long read, but understanding it is necessary to avoid frustration.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

It is somewhat costly but not nearly as costly as additional bandwidth every month.

Other Solutions Considered

We only looked at Riverbed.

Other Advice

In addition to the effective optimization we get out of this solution it integrates directly with some Riverbed SteelCentral monitoring tools we own.

Check out software-defined WAN solutions as well before any hardware solution. SD WAN acceleration solutions have likely improved quite a bit in the last few years.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user413307
Validation Engineer at a comms service provider with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
It compresses more than 50% of the daily throughput​.

What is most valuable?

The WAN optimization feature is the most valuable.

How has it helped my organization?

It helps to save a lot of money in terms of buying bandwidth from a network provider due to the fact that it compresses more than 50% of the daily throughput.

What needs improvement?

The RIOS upgrade/download process must be overhauled to be a direct step process instead of the multiple stage procedure that currently take place.

There are lots of bugs detected in each release which give the assumption that it is not being thoroughly tested.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been supporting it for seven years.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

We had no issues with the deployment but there are bugs in each release.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have no issues with the stability.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have had no issues with scaling it for our needs.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is very good in the WAN optimization department, needs a little more expertize in the steelcentral department.

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

I used Cisco WAAS, Juniper WX, and Ipanema. Riverbed are way ahead overall.

How was the initial setup?

It was straightforward.

What about the implementation team?

I work for a network provider so we are the people who do the implementation. I find that the implementation is very easy in this solution.

What other advice do I have?

This product is far way ahead from its competitors.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We are the biggest reseller of Riverbed product
it_user413271
Network Administrator at a media company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
It has become a valuable traffic shaping tool via its ability to set QoS marking on traffic we specify.​

Valuable Features

Management purchased the product initially for its ability to reduce WAN traffic, especially to overseas partners. However, lately it has also become a valuable traffic shaping tool via it's ability to set QoS marking on traffic we specify.

Improvements to My Organization

It has allowed us to purchase lower bandwidth from our WAN vendors than we normally would have without the Steelhead units.

Room for Improvement

Setting up QoS marking is not all that intuitive. I would like to see all settings needed to set QoS up on one page rather than three or four.

Use of Solution

We've used it for approximately five years.

Deployment Issues

We have had no issues with the deployment.

Stability Issues

Some types of data flows between servers don't always lend themselves to being optimized by the Steelhead unit. These data flows must have bypass rules set up in order to properly pass traffic.

Scalability Issues

We have had no issues with the scalability.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Riverbed has excellent technical support. Even on non-critical cases I have always gotten a support engineer. Most support staff are very understandable.

Initial Setup

The initial setup is very straightforward. Give the unit an IP address for management, an IP address for your WAN segment and place it inline between your local network and your WAN. Steelhead will automatically find peers and set up peering.

Implementation Team

We implemented it via in-house team. My advice is to try setup yourself and if you need assistance, call the support line. They will get you up and running.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

I am not involved in the purchasing or licensing.

Other Solutions Considered

This was our first WAN optimization solution. This product was selected by upper management. I did not have a role in the selection process.

Other Advice

Although I'm sure this is obvious to most it may not be to some when you make your initial purchase you need to buy at least two. The SteelCentral Controller is not strictly needed as all the units can be managed individually, but the more units you deploy, it becomes more difficult to maintain a standard configuration across devices. This is where the SCC comes in very handy.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
it_user410316
Senior Network Engineer at a energy/utilities company with 5,001-10,000 employees
Vendor
​By utilizing the RSP slots we can create a virtual domain controller and/or member server at our remote sites.

Valuable Features:

  1. Inbound QoS
  2. Outbound QoS
  3. Path Selection
  4. SSL optimization
  5. The breadth of scope in the “Reports” tab….(Top Talkers, Current Connections, Application Visibility, Optimized throughput, Traffic Summary and many more)

Improvements to My Organization:

By utilizing the RSP slots we can create a virtual domain controller and/or member server at our remote sites to take care of DHCP, DNS, LDAP auth, Server Print Queues, etc.

If no local file shares (Storage) are needed this is a nice way to save money on hardware and maintenance costs.

Room for Improvement:

SteelCentral Controller global QoS policy should be able to be implemented from the CLI vice only the Web GUI.

Deployment Issues:

We've had no issues with deployment.

Stability Issues:

We've had no issues with stability.

Scalability Issues:

We've had no issues with scalability.

Other Advice:

It is very good at optimizing WAN traffic and it has so many more features on top of that which help global enterprises monitor, identify and police traffic by application type, IP subnet, source, and/or destination.  Amazingly efficient tool to use when troubleshooting WAN issues..(customer complaints and more).

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Consultant with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
Efficient wan optimizer

What is most valuable?

Mainly "generic features" used for data reduction and TCP window optimization. Some applicative specific optimizations used.

How has it helped my organization?

Great added value for replication flows between far away datacenters : => Data to transfer dramatically reduced, lowering WAN links costs. => TCP window scalling permitting to accelerate WAN transfers for old systems not using this feature natively and also for recent systems using less optimized TCP window scalling.

What needs improvement?

Applicative specifics optimizations shall always be improved.

For how long have I used the solution?

2 years

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

Regarding system, upgrades issues occurs with old generations (XX20) but they are now fixed. Regarding hardware, disks sometimes crash on long time installed appliances when it is powercycled but it is the bad side of using magnetic disks to lower big storage space.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Not really.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Not really.

How are customer service and technical support?

Customer Service: Customer service is really efficient. Riverbed TAC access is quick and easy.Technical Support: Sometimes, TAC responses must be challenged but the service is globally valuable.

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

No.

What about the implementation team?

In-house implementation after a vendor team POC and an in-house lab.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Cisco WAAS
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
ITCS user
Senior Network Operations Specialist at a government with 1,001-5,000 employees
Vendor
Customer Service and Tech Support get a 5 out of 5. It should handle more traffic simultaneously.

What is most valuable?

The data compression through the WAN. It is like being on a LAN. It is even more effective when the technology uses an adaptive transfer scheme known as "warm transfer".

How has it helped my organization?

Critical data such as emails and Sharepoint files being able to move faster across the WAN via Riverbed Steelhead's compress/decompress mechanism.

What needs improvement?

Need to handle more traffic simultaneously.

For how long have I used the solution?

2 years

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

No, everything is plug and play with minor configuration involved.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Not at all

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Not at all

How are customer service and technical support?

Customer Service: 5 out of 5Technical Support: 5 out of 5

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

I used Cisco WAAS technology before. The Riverbed Steelhead is much easier to configure and works faster on packet delivery.

How was the initial setup?

Setup was very straightforward.

What was our ROI?

Less bandwidth usage

What other advice do I have?

Please do some diligent research before purchasing the product. It is quite expensive but it is worth it in the long run.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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