Riverbed is a leader in the WAN optimization space, but have struggled to parlay that technological prowess into success with SD-WAN. As more enterprises move from MPLS to SD-WAN, many are making that move because WAN optimization is a basic feature in the majority of SD-WAN hardware solutions.
In late October 2019, Riverbed announced the general availability of their new SD-WAN product, the SteelConnect EX system. However, far from being a “new” product, the SteelConnect EX is the first of Riverbed’s products produced based on Versa Networks’ SD-WAN appliances. Riverbed’s agreement with Versa is only a few months old, meaning the SteelConnect EX is essentially a Versa box with “Riverbed” badge and some customized software. It was also revealed that the SteelConnect EX is aimed at Riverbed’s existing large enterprise customers who want to add SD-WAN to their sites.
Some technically-minded readers of SD-WAN Rankings might recall that Riverbed already sells in-house SD-WAN system built from technology gained from acquiring German SD-WAN startup Ocedo back in 2016. However, that Ocedo-based SD-WAN system has been pushed downmarket and relegated to Riverbed’s small-to-midsize customers.
So, outside of Riverbed’s own customer base, who will be interested in SteelConnect EX? Riverbed’s latest move creates the impression they couldn’t make their own SD-WAN solution successful in the large enterprise and gave up. Another issue is that Riverbed SteelConnect EX is basically a Versa Networks box that Riverbed slapped their logo on then made some software tweaks.
Although Riverbed wants SteelConnect EX to target the large enterprise customers, those are the customers that already have tons of internal IT/network/telecom resources who can manage any SD-WAN setup from any hardware maker.
It won’t take too long for many IT managers to look at Riverbed SteelConnect EX and do the math: “If I am just buying Riverbed boxes which are actually just Versa boxes then why not just eliminate the middleman and buy Versa boxes?“
Additionally, mid-sized businesses and “smaller” large enterprise customers with Riverbed WAN optimization on their networks that are in the market for SD-WAN should consider managed SD-WAN. Because IT resources are finite, many organizations are turning to managed SD-WAN to free their IT teams up to concentrate on more strategic (and revenue generating) initiatives.