Riverbed Customer Case Study

Riverbed Technology logo

"We could not accomplish our optimization work without understanding the Office protocols...the Microsoft Open Specifications program is very important to us." -Judy Mirkin, Director of Riverbed

Riverbed Technology, Inc.


Country or region: Worldwide

Industry: Networking software and hardware

specializing in WAN optimization

The Company

Riverbed Technology specializes in WAN optimization by improving the performance of networks and networked applications. The company currently provides services for approximately 22,000 customers worldwide. Riverbed's flagship Steelhead family of products accelerates application performance and data transfer over the WAN.

The Product

The Steelhead appliance is typically connected between a WAN router and a LAN switch. Each appliance interacts with other appliances across the WAN to increase the efficiency and performance of network traffic.

Steelhead appliances work together to reduce network traffic in three ways:

  • Remove redundant data. Once the packets arrive at their designated location on the WAN, the receiving appliance reinserts the stored data back into the data stream. The result is that fewer packets need to be transmitted.

  • Improve TCP Behavior. The Steelhead software opens a much larger TCP window size to increase the amount of data sent per trip, without requiring any changes made to clients or servers. The software pools short-lived connections to reduce overall connection establishment overhead.

  • Streamline applications to mitigate network latency. Many applications that move a large amount of data across a WAN, such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, SMB, NFS, and CIFS, require frequent client-server interactions. The inherent latency in wide-area networks can negatively affect the performance of these applications. The Steelhead software includes protocol-specific optimizations that reduce the number of client-server interactions, which improves application performance and returns a "LAN-like" feel to end users.

In addition to the original appliance solution, Riverbed recently expanded Steelhead services to work on public and private cloud infrastructures.

The Business Problem

To optimize WAN traffic, the engineers at Riverbed know that improving network performance is not merely a matter of increasing bandwidth. Network latency plays a major role in slowing down the transmission of application data. While transfer rates across a LAN may be very fast, WANs tend to amplify the factors that create network latency, particularly for application protocols that require numerous client-server interactions to move data between hosts.

The primary applications of concern for Riverbed clients include Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, and the Office suite of applications. Optimization also requires understanding, at a low-level, of how applications communicate in a network setting.

The Solution

To reduce the effects of latency caused by frequent client-server interactions over a WAN, Riverbed developers created RiOS (Riverbed Optimization System), the optimization software that runs on Steelhead appliances, virtual appliances, laptops, and in the cloud. The function of RiOS is to streamline data transmission by reducing the amount of traffic generated between client and server and by improving TCP and UDP performance.

When developing the RiOS solution for Microsoft Office applications, Riverbed relied heavily on two factors:

  • The Open Specifications documentation published by the Microsoft Office Interoperability team.

  • The Office Interoperability partner program that allows the engineering teams of both Riverbed and Microsoft to work collaboratively to test Open Specification implementations.


According to information provided on Riverbed.com, the application streamlining technology built into the Steelhead appliance is able to reduce an organization's WAN traffic by 65% to 95%. Coupled with data streamlining and transport streamlining, Steelhead can double WAN transmission rates.

Level of Satisfaction with Microsoft Open Protocols Support Team

During an interview with the Office Protocols team, Judy Mirkin - Riverbed's Global Alliances and Business Development Director - said that "it's been absolutely delightful to work with Microsoft, both formally and informally." In addition to the high degree of satisfaction with the protocol documentation and the protocol Test Suites, Ms. Mirkin also offered praise for the Plugfests offered by the Protocols team, where Riverbed's developers are able to meet with members of Microsoft's technical staff. One particularly valuable aspect of the Plugfests cited by Ms. Mirkin is the help that Riverbed has received regarding its development of automated testing for the Steelhead product line. The Plugfests have also fostered valuable professional relationships between the two companies.

The Partnership

The Microsoft Office Interoperability Team’s joint activity with Riverbed is key to driving benefits for our customers as well as further expanding the partnership between Microsoft and Riverbed.



Mirkin, Judy, interview by Francis Langlois and Todd Reid, Redmond, WA.

Martz, Ben, interview by Francis Langlois and Todd Reid, Redmond, WA, 31 July 2012.