Cisco ‘Scratches the Surface’ of Performance Monitoring

Mike Sargent


As you may have heard, Cisco has announced its intent to acquire AppDynamics, an APM vendor for $3.7 billion.This is almost twice the valuation, which was at $1.9 billion, of the company. Why make this move? They cite the importance of ‘end to end visibility and intelligence’. At Riverbed SteelCentral, we completely agree—comprehensive end to end visibility and intelligence is absolutely critical to assure the performance of today’s digital transformation initiatives, and we appreciate Cisco weighing in and validating the importance of network and application monitoring instrumentation coming together. Unfortunately, adding a narrow point solution to a set of networking capabilities barely scratches the surface when it comes to addressing the burning needs of today’s enterprise.

As companies accelerate their investments in digital transformation initiatives to transform their businesses and take their customer relationships to the next level, the stakes associated with their delivered ‘customer experience’ have gone way up. Seconds matter. Milliseconds matter. And traditional, reactive, siloed monitoring approaches to performance management—that are prevalent in the majority of companies today—are failing. The future is all about the proactive, comprehensive management of end-to-end performance in order to deliver a superior and consistent customer experience.

Riverbed SteelCentral has long recognized the shortcomings of how enterprises approach performance management. IT has and continues to follow a very fragmented approach to monitoring and managing performance. Massive proliferation of point products and warring silos plague IT departments. Dozens of separate tools are used by teams to monitor and maintain domain innocence and defend against finger pointing. App teams use their own point APM tools (like AppDynamics), the network and ops teams have their tools to monitor the network and infrastructure (NPM and ITIM). Servers are managed by other tools and desktop support teams use their own Device Performance Management tool (or DPM). If this sounds like an IT nightmare, it is. But despite all these tools, businesses continue to fail in achieving their primary goal: Delivering a consistently reliable and high performing user experience to their customers and employees.

In contrast, Riverbed SteelCentral is delivering, by design, the most comprehensive, integrated end-to-end solution in the industry, with visibility of apps, networks, infrastructure—and, with last year’s acquisition of Aternity, we added deep visibility into the end user experience from the user’s device, be it physical, mobile or virtual. Regardless of the emerging architecture—entirely cloud-based, hybrid, or on-premise—SteelCentral can deliver the most comprehensive visibility in the industry.

The challenges for Cisco: integration and velocity

Certainly we can understand the importance to Cisco of adding application-centric capabilities, given the challenges it has with its core legacy networking and hardware business—while the future is app-defined, cloud-first and digital. Cisco is trying to migrate away from legacy infrastructure toward applications and software. However the big challenge Cisco will face as they enter the game late, is trying to integrate this software with its legacy capabilities, and then plugging the holes—all while the industry evolves at an accelerating app-driven pace. It will take Cisco years to add the necessary capabilities, and more importantly integrate them, to deliver the kind of end-to-end solution that enterprises need today. Why wait when you can breakthrough NOW with Riverbed SteelCentral?

Over the last few years, we have continued to deliver an integrated platform that provides customers with end-to-end visibility across their end-users, applications, networks, and infrastructure both on and off the cloud. These integrated solutions allow teams to work across domains, to make informed decisions, and to ensure business results. SteelCentral’s integrated approach is the only performance management solution that can help organizations deliver a consistently reliable and high performing Digital User Experience.

How does the Cisco + AppDynamics combination compare to Riverbed SteelCentral?

At first glance, it may appear that the addition of AppDynamics puts Cisco within shouting distance of Riverbed’s capabilities. However, when drawing comparisons, users should look deeper at the differences in approach:  ‘bolt-on’ versus ‘designed-in’, i.e. punched-through and connected vs. seamlessly integrated. Obviously, we believe SteelCentral’s performance monitoring and management capabilities are broader, deeper, and more fully blended.


A Comprehensive Performance Platform: SteelCentral provides end-to-end visibility from the end user’s device through the network and into the application backend for custom, off-the-shelf, VoIP and mobile apps. With the integration of SteelCentral Aternity, IT teams have visibility into the performance and health of the workforce down to the end user’s device. This level of breadth and depth are unmatched.

Detailed Application Monitoring: SteelCentral traces every user transaction from the end-user’s device, across the network and into the application backend, all while capturing system metrics at one second intervals. This level of detail ensures that users never miss performance problems and get accurate business insights. AppDynamics traces a sample of transactions, and captures system metrics every 1, 10, or 60 minutes.

Versatile End User Insights: SteelCentral provides visibility into end user experience and details into user interaction with every type of application in the enterprise portfolio, not just web and mobile apps. This includes local apps like SAP, apps that run on virtual environments, and 3rd party apps that run in the cloud. Relying solely on JavaScript injection requires access to application code, which limits AppDynamics to web and mobile apps. SteelCentral is uniquely able to provide insight to the impact of IT on workforce productivity for every business critical app in the enterprise portfolio.

Business Insights Across the Entire Enterprise Portfolio: SteelCentral is uniquely able to provide insight into the impact of IT on workforce productivity for every business critical app in the enterprise portfolio. Riverbed’s SteelCentral Aternity provides accurate performance information of any business-defined user interaction with any local, cloud, web, or enterprise mobile app relative to defined performance thresholds. This enables customers to fully measure and understand business activity using granular transaction events. AppDynamics provides ‘business insights’ for web and mobile apps only by estimating a monetary value to end-user transactions based on the URLs that are accessed.

Closing thoughts on the acquisition

Welcome to the party Cisco, and thank you for providing further validation that the market needs comprehensive instrumentation and transversal performance management that spans IT domains. As we both continue to grow this market as a whole and educate customers, we look forward to crossing paths and competing.

If this acquisition caught your attention, and you see value in comprehensive, end-to-end visibility and insights across your technology stack, please get in touch with us. Riverbed has been blazing this trail for many years, and will continue to pursue our ‘designed-in’ approach to comprehensive, end-to-end performance management to assure a reliable and high impact end user experience. We’re ready to help and accelerate your digital transformation initiative.

Start your free trial of Riverbed SteelCentral here


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