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Riverbed Xirrus merger brings SD-WAN, wireless integration

The Riverbed Xirrus merger will lead to unified management of SD-WAN and wireless products. Riverbed SteelConnect Manager will get some control over Xirrus access points this year.

WAN optimization company Riverbed Technology, which recently acquired Wi-Fi vendor Xirrus, plans to add by the end of the year features to SteelConnect Manager that will move the software closer to becoming a combined wireless and software-defined WAN management console.

While modest, the SteelConnect Manager changes point to Riverbed's longer-term strategy of providing a single interface for overseeing Riverbed Xirrus access points (APs) and switches and SteelConnect-branded SD-WAN appliances and software.

Riverbed plans to perform the integration through a string of software updates that will protect the investments customers make today in Xirrus and Riverbed hardware, said Bruce Miller, the head of product marketing at Riverbed. "It's a pure software play."

Managing the Riverbed Xirrus network fast lane

Before the end of the year, SteelConnect Manager users will sign-in once to also access the Xirrus management console and to toggle between the two. Early next year, Riverbed plans to let customers use Manager to push out policies that prioritize traffic flowing through Xirrus APs.

For example, network managers could direct to the fast lane data traffic moving to and from critical business applications, such as Microsoft Office 365, while relegating non-critical applications or websites to second-tier lanes. Managers would also have the option to block traffic to non-business websites or online services.

Riverbed Xirrus APs and Manager use the same mechanisms for inspecting packets to identify applications and enforce policies, Miller said. The similarity in technologies makes the integration process easier.

Providing a single interface for managing wired and wireless devices has been a trend in the networking industry for several years. Riverbed wants its integration strategy to differentiate itself from rivals Cisco, Citrix and Silver Peak, which also have WAN optimization and SD-WAN products.

Further out, Riverbed plans to funnel traffic data from Xirrus APs into SteelCentral, the company's network performance monitoring (NPM) tool. The modular platform performs various NPM functions, including standard infrastructure availability monitoring, application monitoring and deep packet inspection capabilities.

Riverbed has integrated SteelCentral with its SteelConnect SD-WAN. Also meshed with the two products is Riverbed's SteelHead WAN optimization technology.

As a whole, the products let IT managers monitor application performance across hybrid WANs, remote LANs and cloud networks. Network operators can also set the speed that data travels across the networks based on the performance needs of applications.

New Riverbed Xirrus AP

In other Riverbed news, the company introduced this week a Xirrus 802.11ac Wave 2 AP called the XD2-230. The device has a maximum throughput of 3.9 Gbps and supports Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a variant of Bluetooth personal area network technology. BLE is designed to connect with internet-enabled machines and appliances. The list price of the XD2-230 is $695.

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