The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

Does Riverbed reverse engineer? Does it matter?

Posted by riverbedtest on June 9, 2010

Today I had a customer tell me that Cisco was accusing Riverbed of "reverse engineering" IBM's Lotus Notes in order to deliver the fast performance that our customers enjoy.  To distract from the fact that their own WAAS product lacks layer-7 optimization capabilities for Lotus Notes, Cisco was attempting to discredit the Steelhead solution's Lotus Notes optimization feature by accusing Riverbed of the deadly sin of "reverse engineering."

I had to think for a bit on what Cisco meant by to "reverse engineer."  It's true that we have IBM's product in our labs, just like we do Microsoft's, Citrix's, and a host of other vendor products that our customers use.  It's also true that we  study and analyze how these products behave in order to deliver our layer-7 application-specific optimization capabilities.  So to try to figure out what Cisco was intending to say in their accusations, I looked up the term "reverse engineer" in the Webster dictionary, which says:

Main Entry: reverse engineer
Function: transitive verb
Date: 1973

: to disassemble and examine or analyze in detail (as a product or device) to discover the concepts involved in manufacture usually in order to produce something similar

reverse engineering noun

So let's see if what Riverbed does fits the definition of "reverse engineering".  Well, we're certainly not trying to create a product that is similar to Lotus Notes, but we do examine and study the Lotus Notes product in detail, in order to deliver application-specific optimization capabilities for it.  So without apology, we plead guilty ot the first charge–we are guilty of studying and analyzing IBM's Lotus Notes product in great detail.  We do this in order to understand how to deliver wickedly-fast performance over the WAN for for the Lotus Notes application. But as for the second charge, we plead innocent.  Obviously, Riverbed is not trying to copy IBM's product to create another messaging application, or to compete with IBM's Lotus Notes product in any way.

So if these pleas hold weight in a court of law, does that make Riverbed guilty of reverse engineering?  You know, I really don't know.  And even if it does, why does it matter?

To be honest, I'm confused as to why Cisco is making these "reverse engineering" accusations.  It's almost as if someone accused me of supporting the Republican political agenda, or of opposing nuclear disarmament.  Even if it were true, why is it relevant and why should you care?  And wouldn't Cisco's WAAS users be better-served if Cisco were to address problems that are affecting WAAS, instead of distracting them with confusing accusations about their competitor's products?  Wouldn't Cisco's customers be more interested in knowing if or when Cisco will finally introduce layer-7 optimization for Lotus Notes in their own WAAS product?  Or understanding why after so many years of selling WAAS why Cisco's product still has scaling issues and interoperability problems with Microsoft products?


One Response to “Does Riverbed reverse engineer? Does it matter?”

  1. Josh Tseng said

    Good point. In that sense, it would be foolish for you to trust a vendor to accelerate Lotus Notes if they did not indeed “reverse engineer” it (i.e., analyze it in detail).

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