The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

Top 10 things Cisco must do to catch up to Riverbed

Posted by riverbedtest on August 25, 2009

For the past five years, Cisco has been trying hard…real catch up to Riverbed.  It must be frustrating, because every time Cisco makes some progress in terms of introducing features, Riverbed seems to pull even further away with still more new capabilities.  To illustrate what I mean, I've compiled a partial list of things that Cisco still must do to catch up to Riverbed.

10.  Fix the WAAS per-peer data store and make it more like Riverbed's universal data store — Unless they do this, WAAS simply won't scale as well as the Riverbed Steelhead solution.  Just imagine, in a network with 100 remote sites, the core Cisco WAAS device in the data center would store 100 times as much data as the Riverbed device in an equivalent deployment.  Here is a link to my previous blog on this issue:

9.  Get rid of the CIFS caching architecture — The caching approach stores all CIFS data to disk twice, once in DRE, and a second time in the CIFS cache.  Can't be good for scaling performance when WAAS has to do roughly twice the I/O operations to disk as the equivalent Riverbed device in order to optimize CIFS performance.

8.  Grow WAAS revenues, not shrink them — In the recent July (FYQ4/2009) quarter, Cisco's Application Networking business unit–the group that sells WAAS–shrank revenues by 27% year-over-year.  This comes on the heels of the prior quarter where the same business unit shrank revenues by 31% year-over-year.  Analysts such as Gartner have also noted a very significant shrinkage in market share by Cisco WAAS in the recent quarter.

7.  Optimize asymmetrically-routed traffic without relying on WCCP — Let's face it, asymmetrically-routed traffic is common in large networks.  Cisco's requirement to use WCCP in such networks makes WAAS very difficult to manage and deploy, and is yet another reason why WAAS doesn't scale for large networks.

6.  Support something other than just Windows Core Services and ACNS on their virtual blade — With Riverbed customers can deploy a full version of Windows, as well as Checkpoint, Infoblox, and a number of other 3rd-party vendor apps.  Many customers are also able to install their own custom applications into Riverbed's RSP and Windows running on RSP.  See my previous blog on RSP:

5.  Improve software quality — Even a feature-packed product is useless unless the software is stable.  According to Cisco's own product release notes documentation, the most recent WAAS 4.1.3 software has more "open caveats" (documented known bugs) than any previous major WAAS software release.  This can't be a good sign for a product that is supposedly mature or maturing.

4.  Catch up to Riverbed's 6500-customer installed base — Cisco's most recent claim (Oct 2008) is that 3000 customers have purchased WAAS, and that number appears to include many who have since switched to Riverbed.

3.  Stop copying Riverbed and start innovating for once — From RSP, to Steelhead Mobile, to NFS and SSL optimization, Cisco has always been in the mode of trying to catch up to Riverbed, by copying features and capabilities that Riverbed introduces first.  Admittedly, this is hard to do, especially when there continues to be a laundry list of missing features in WAAS that are available in the Riverbed solution.  But a sign of a true leader in any market is a vendor that innovates, and offers customers new capabilities that were not previously available.

2.  Demonstrate a truly large, enterprise-wide WAAS deployment that optimizes all TCP/IP traffic — When you look into the details of each real-world WAAS deployment, they typically involve a relatively small number of WAAS devices deployed to support only a small portion of the customer's overall enterprise network, and/or a limited subset of the customer's TCP-based application traffic.  In contrast, Riverbed has many customers who have deployed hundreds of Steelhead appliances, including some customers who have Steelheads at every location in their enterprise network.

1.  Eat their own (WAAS) dogfood  If Cisco is selling WAAS to their customers, then they should be using WAAS in their own internal network.  And I'm not talking about just pilot testing.  While Cisco's internal IT organization is happy to use other Cisco products, they don't seem to be comfortable with WAAS.  My original blog about this issue ( has been met with silence from Cisco.  Since WAAS is not a new product anymore (Cisco has been selling it for almost five years), there is no excuse for Cisco not eating their own WAAS dogfood.

Since 2004 when Cisco acquired the original WAAS product, many have predicted that Cisco would catch up to Riverbed.  Year after year, Cisco promises that the next WAAS software release will truly be the "Riverbed killer."  And yet from all appearances it seems Cisco is further behind Riverbed than they ever have been in the past.

6 Responses to “Top 10 things Cisco must do to catch up to Riverbed”

  1. Wan Optimizer said

    Great marketing article to bash your favorite competitor. I Think, instead of recommending Cisco to catch up Riverbed you should look into your shoes.
    Really surprised to see that You quote Gartner most of the time and claim Riverbed as No 1 in Market share but still feels fear to loose market to Cisco, Bluecoat.
    You talk about Cisco software quality and architecture. I don’t know much about that but “don’t throw stone if you are living in a glass house”.
    But let me ask something to you..
    How many open bugs Riverbed quote in their software release notes?.. None….Riverbed only mention bugs which fixed in a particular release.
    How many software patch Riverbed release in a month (8-10) or in a year(90-100). and you are talking about software quality…:-)
    I am a reseller and for sure love Cisco’s transparent and high quality software practice where they mention and recommend Customer about each open caveats and bugs. This is one of the few things Riverbed has to learn from Cisco.
    I don’ know much about the WAAS revenue but I know that those guys are not behind you even your favorite analyst Gartner reported Cisco with No.1 market share last year.
    Fix bugs in your software Josh and Make your software high quality instead of bashing and advising your competitor.This would make our life easier.

  2. Josh Tseng said

    Since you claim to be a Cisco reseller, I’m surprised that you think the number of software releases has anything to do with software quality. It’s widely known that Cisco issues a new “interim” IOS release on a weekly basis. When you look at the number of Cisco IOS release trains, rebuilds, interim releases, and maintenance releases, it’s quite baffling to all except the dedicated network engineer. Using your logic, it appears the world’s IP networks are in pretty bad shape, given that the majority of them are using routers running Cisco IOS.
    Regardless, the facts in your post are incorrect in a number of places, including:
    >>>How many software patch Riverbed release in a month (8-10) or in a year(90-100). and you are talking about software quality…:-) <<<
    Riverbed publishes an official maintenance release about every two months. The latest official release is RiOS 5.5.4. Since RiOS 5.5.0 was released on 11/24/2008, by my count that is five official Riverbed software releases over the past nine months.
    Of the ten catch-up areas I listed, it seems the only one you raised an objection to is software quality. I take that to mean you tacitly accept my other nine points. But software quality is a common and recurring issue experienced by current and former WAAS customers that I've personally talked with. Furthermore, you don't have to take my word for it–this issue is also discussed in this Gartner report:
    “Cisco WAAS Update: Client Feedback Suggests to Proceed with Caution”, document number G00160302
    As far as Riverbed software, yes we do indeed list "known problems" for each RiOS software release. The latest 5.5.4 documentation lists two "known issues." But the point here is that unlike Cisco WAAS, with Riverbed there is no increasing trend of "known issues" with the more recent releases. I would be alarmed if RiOS 5.5 had 2X the number of "known issues" as RiOS 3.0; fortunately, that is not the case. What this demonstrates is Riverbed's commitment to quickly address bug problems when they are discovered, as we add new features and capabilities to improve the product.

  3. An old friend said

    Here are some thoughts on two other players in the market not on the Riverbed Blog site.
    Juniper Issues:
    – Still using old 32-bit software architecture (no 64-bit processing, $25M/qtr)
    – Blue Coat can’t scale WAN optimization–according to CEO Brian Nesmith on 25 Aug 2009 teleconference, Blue Coat’s WAN optimization deployments are very small compared to Riverbed–only three to nine boxes for a typical customer (…)

  4. This is one of the few things Riverbed has to learn from Cisco.

  5. Admittedly, this is hard to do, especially when there continues to be a laundry list of missing features in WAAS that are available in the Riverbed solution.

  6. It’s widely known that Cisco issues a new “interim” IOS release on a weekly basis.

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