OT: Cisco WAAS vs. Riverbed Steelhead


We are doing WAN accelerator evals. I’ve been drinking the Cisco kool-aid for a long time now, so my natural inclination is to go with WAAS, sort of by default. But the more reading I do, the more it seems that the Riverbed Steelhead is a superior product. Reportedly, WAAS is difficult to install and tweak when compared to Steelhead. In addition, Riverbed offers a mobile client that Cisco does not. WAAS is available on a NAM, which is sort of interesting for our 3800s, but not a huge deal. We’re okay using WCCP and/or in-line deployments in appropriate situations.

Any of you dealing with WAAS and/or Steelhead care to comment on the capabilities and ease-of-deployment for the appliances? In my world, we’re looking to accelerate a variety of WAN links ranging from T1 to OC-3, focusing on CIFS, HTTP, MAPI, and other TCP-based applications such as FTP. SRDF is also of interest, but we’ll be migrating off of SRDF to something else in a year or so. Pre-staging of data is interesting, but not a huge concern.

Feel free to comment here in the blog or unicast me

About the author

Ethan Banks

Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.


  • We were looking at the WAAS box last year while taking a look at VOIP through the WAN. It went absolutely no where. Cisco themselves couldn’t really work it out after we had given them samples files and such that are opened over the WAN link.

  • Last month we completed a full implementation of WAAS, after spending almost a month discussing which product to buy and it was determined that if you are running a Cisco network then WASS was the way to go…better integration and less trainning because the fact that the ios commands are almost the same other cisco devices….

  • For reading, you might want to look at some of Cisco’s references and articles as well. For mobile client, Cisco launched WAAS Mobile in January at the Networkers conference in Barcelona, Spain, and is shipping now.

    WAAS Mobile: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/prod/collateral/contnetw/ps5680/ps6870/data_sheet_cisco_wide_area_application_services_mobile.html

    Full WAN optim deployment vs. other vendor:

    General WAAS case studies:

  • We are a cisco shop … i too have had many sips of the Cisco juice. I will totally agree … CIFS, MAPI, HTTP … i have actually seen both in production … would not trade my steelheads for anything. Getting usable Solidworks (3d modeling) connectivity from China using the products. Gotta love that

  • I’ve used both and I like the Riverbed a little bit more. I have found problems with both. Since we do a lot of encrypted transfers those no matter what you are doing do not go faster. However since you are moving other things out of the way in theory you would see an improvement (I don’t do enough unencrypted to tell).

  • I’ve never yet used Riverbed. However I have been involved in two bigger evals for different companies.
    In the first one There was Cisco, Juniper and Blue Coat.
    The customer had been using the Cisco WAAS for about a year before this eval, but the customer selected Blue Coat MACH5 for there implemenation.
    The other company is still in the prosses of evaluating, but they are know choosing between Blue Coat and Juniper WX.
    So give Blue Coat and Juniper a look.
    Just a Swedes point of view ;)


Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.

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