One feature that I know network admins will really appreciate is that the Steelhead appliance no longer loses network connection on a restart of the core services. This means that when a policy change or other modification is made to a Steelhead and IT restarts the services, network traffic is no longer disrupted. I tested this feature by doing a continuous ping across the WAN while restarting the services, and not once did I drop a packet.
Management for all
Riverbed's CMC is a great tool for monitoring and managing multiple Steelhead appliances. One of the better features is the "touchless configuration." Admins can deploy a Steelhead to a remote office and once installed, have it "phone home" to download its optimization policy. A CMC can also fetch configurations from other Steelheads and push them out to help eliminate any "fat finger" errors.
During my evaluation, I updated the images on all three Steelheads from my CMC with a single mouse click. The CMC had the latest image pre-staged on it and I simply chose the Steelheads I wanted to update and clicked OK. This step couldn't have been any easier.
Another reason to consider a CMC: It will collate all of the reports from each Steelhead it manages and store the information for as long as one year. A typical Steelhead can only keep about 30 days' worth locally. So if longer trending and analysis is required, the CMC is the best way to go. Out of the box, a single CMC can manage as many as 10 Steelheads.
With all of the bells and whistles available in RiOS 4, I wondered how Riverbed could build (yet another) better mousetrap. The new QoS and Exchange 2007 engines are welcome additions, and the improved HTTP support for dynamic content is terrific. The almost automated HTTPS certificate sharing makes configuration of secure traffic acceleration even easier. Are there any negatives? Well, it still won't unpack itself.