Riverbed has done deals with several developers of network monitoring software to get them to add support for its Steelhead WAN appliances.

The software companies involved - Compuware, NetScout, OpNet, Meru, SolarWinds, AlterPoint, NetDialog and OpsWare - are adding varying levels of support for Steelhead. The first seven are including it in their trouble-shooting tools, for instance, while OpsWare will be able to manage and configure it.

Alan Saldich, Riverbed's VP of product marketing and alliances, said that while Steelhead's management console already provides visibility into its activities, including NetFlow reporting, it's not been so easy in the past to understand the device's effect on the overall WAN.

"We don't provide tools that analyse the wider picture," he said. "Some of these guys will let you simulate moving a server from one office to another and see what effects that will have on the end user, say - they're much broader than the Riverbed tools."

WAN accelerators are a problem for network monitoring, as they appear to distort key traffic and site statistics. By enabling the monitoring tool to understand what the WAN accelerator's doing, it can properly include it in its calculations, Saldich explained.

The result is that network admins will be able to see how the Riverbed boxes affect their networks, he said, adding that this should have both pre- and post-deployment uses.

For example, admins could use monitoring tools to simulate the effect on application performance of taking Steelhead out of the loop, analyse application traffic to identify the optimal candidates for optimisation, or identify unexpected traffic spikes.

Saldich noted that Riverbed is also building branch office server capabilities into the Steelhead via a virtualisation layer in its RiOS operating system. This allows the boxes to run third-party software on a virtual machine.

"It currently supports either print services, Infoblox DNS and DHCP software, or a streaming media package," he said. "RiOS version 5.0 provides one VM, but by the autumn we will have the ability to run five."