The Love is Over: Civil 3D and Riverbed

In a bit of a surprising move, Riverbed essentially hung Autodesk out to dry with a conference call and webcast pointing the finger directly at Autodesk for issues with Riverbed hardware and 2007 format DWG files. You can view the webinar here, and download the PDF they released here.

It seems that Riverbed has been catching a lot of heat from users complaining about the lack of updates and functionality. It’s not unusual for developers to point the fingers at each other during a support call chase, but to air the laundry in public points to a breakdown in communication between the two parties. Based on casual inquiries, and out own attempts to get definitive answers on this subject over the years, it doesn’t seem that chatter was ever as open as it should be. For Riverbed, a company that made the AEC industry its bread and butter, this smacks of a desperate attempt to deflect some heat.

Edit: Someone pointed out that I’d given some serious love to Riverbed just over a year ago in this post. I did. I think they’re marvelous tools. Here’s the problem with that older post: the test was done with Inventor. Inventor doesn’t use dwg files. Damnit, that means all bets are off.

Have a Riverbed? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. We don’t have a Riverbed yet, but we have been looking into getting them for our offices. I caught wind of this issue a while ago and we have decided that this is a dealbreaker. We would be investing a large amount of money in the applicances and we would want them to work correctly. I think it is kind of funny that Riverbed is recomending using the 2004 file format. With Civil 3D? Not go to 2007/2008 (and soon 2009)? With Civil 3D? Come on guys, please cooperate and fix this! I think the concept is great, but it has to work for the new file version!

    David J. Pesavento, P.E.
    Morton & Pitalo, Inc.

  2. Don’t have Riverbed, but have the competing Packeteer (sitting mostly idle in the office I work in, but others in the company seem to be happy with it). It seems to handle the dwg well, but Civil 3D and Packeteer don’t play together well.

  3. apurva dave says:

    Fair disclosure – I work for Riverbed and am monitoring this problem closely. I thought that I would chime in from our perspective.

    AutoCAD and Riverbed have been communicating and working together on this issue – I don’t think it’s fair to characterize this as ‘hanging someone out to dry’ or ‘pointing the finger.’ In fact, we made sure to invite AutoCAD to participate in the Web event as well. When we realized that customers were starting to have serious problems, we wanted to be open with customers that the issue existed, hence the web seminar and available materials. That in no way means that we’re not working on the issue with AutoCAD – merely that we wanted to inform our customers about this important issue which might impact application performance.

    By the way, this issue affects all vendors like Riverbed. In our talks with AutoCAD, we’ve learned that the design changes that have been implemented in the AutoCAD 2007 DWG format have been in the works for many years… essentially before products like Riverbed or any of our competitors had been widely adopted. Those changes are now having ripple effects on our customers’ IT infrastructure, and our goal is to find ways to minimize the impact on day-to-day operations.

    Both AutoCAD and Riverbed have support tickets open (ticket #990168 for AutoCAD, ticket #35250 for Riverbed). We encourage customers to reach out to us so that both organizations can track the problem better and keep you informed of any progress we make.

    Apurva Dave’
    Director of Product Marketing

  4. Thanks for coming by Apurva, we truly do appreciate your insight. And while you take offense with my calling it pointing fingers, I don’t know what else it could be when you host the call, say the ball is in Autodesk’s court, and send out PDFs essentially stating it’s Autodesk’s problem, not yours. Additionally, to merit any claim of openness, you should have warned customers existing and prospective alike that there was a problem. This is not a new issue, but is only now being acknowledged by Riverbed in a public forum, two years after the dwg format change? I’ll stand by my characterization.

    My main problem is that Riverbed essentially creates add-ons. They’re hardware in nature, but they’re just add-ons. As a pseudo-developer, I know I’ve spent hours and days updating code with each release of the Autodesk products. That’s part of the game. I make an after-market product, I better fix it when the market changes. Riverbed has tried to place the ball in Autodesk’s court. It’s never in their court. You make the add-on, you make it work. To expect support from Autodesk, or to expect them to rework the dwg engine to better suit your after-market product seems like wishful thinking at best, a disingenuous attempt to avoid a hellstorm at worst.

    I loved my Riverbeds (go look, I’ve said wonderful things about them for years,) and still love the technology. My beef isn’t with the product, it’s with the approach you’ve taken to resolving a problem of your own making.

  5. David Rettig says:

    We have a number of Riverbed Steelheads in production and have this issue. For me, there were 3 issues:

    1 – Since Riverbed knew about the problem with encryption (of DWG), why were we never explicitly told to disable this? We purchased the Riverbed’s a while ago and have been discussing performance for 2 years, last month they mentioned DWG file encryption.

    2 – Last month when they did finally tell us about the problem with DWG encryption, we were told “in a month we are having a webinar with solutions!” Just hang in there, baby.

    3 – The webinar titled “Best Practices for Deploying WDS with Autodesk’s DWG File Formats” had no real solutions and no “Best Practices for Deplyoing WDS”. It did have “Things you can disable in Autodesk to get our product to work again” or “Best Practices For Calling AutoDesk because we can’t fix our product”

    I feel misled.

  6. Gene Evans says:

    With all due respect to James Wedding’s comments, Autodesk does have a responsibility to ensure that its products work with the types of hardware that customers will likely have deployed on their networks. WAN acceleration/WAFS/WDS solutions are not simply an add-on to Autodesk products. This type of hardware is often deployed to optimize other types of traffic and may even be in place preceding any considerations regarding DWG data. As this technology becomes more ubiquitous, Autodesk will be hard pressed not to design its products to take advantage of it. Knowing Autodesk’s rich history of responding to the needs of its customers, I am confident that Autodesk will work to support these types of devices.

  7. John Schmidt says:

    Also posted at the Autodesk discussion forums, but here to keep things consolidated.

    That’s my biggest beef with Riverbed – I myself asked them months ago why they still had the AutoCAD acceleration papers on their website, since it was obviously no longer the case, except for those using old versions of AutoCAD. No response… So for the less than AutoCAD-savvy IT manager, etc, who just happened to use this old info at their website as justification for Riverbeds, he could be specifying something based on invalid assumptions and pretty much useless for the primary purpose they were purchased.

    I personally don’t blame either vendor totally for the problems, though I believe it’s far more in Autodesk’s realm of possibilities to come up with a solution. If a “better” or “more stable” drawing format results in a type of data configuration unsuitable for WAN acceleration, do you really want Autodesk to chop up the format just so it will work with WAN accelerators? I’m willing to bet that even though there are numerous companies like us that access drawings over the WAN, there are likely far more that never do, and could care less about the Riverbed issues – they just want the most stable drawing format possible. Should Autodesk modify their format for the *guestimated* less than 10% of us that are Riverbed users? If I were an AutoCAD user *not* using a WAN, I’d be pretty ticked if Autodesk did something like this! But if the drawing format *can* be changed so that it works with Riverbeds *without* affecting stability, etc., then shame on Autodesk for not allocating resources to correct the format.

    And much as we’d like to say, “Riverbed should fix this!”, the simple fact of the matter is that the factors affecting file properties that can be accelerated are not in Riverbed’s control. Much as I’d like my car to fly, there isn’t anything the manufacturer can do that will overcome the physical limitations. I’m sure that Riverbed has also looked at the issue from every angle. That’s still no excuse for them seeming to pretty much cover up this issue for so long – even now, it’s hard to find this current info at their website.

    Now for some personal observations. We’ve had our Steelheads for 3 years now, and Riverbed no longer supports their hardware after it’s 3 years old – it doesn’t matter if you pay for support or not. So basically, besides the high support contract costs, (required for *any* support – even to just their Knowledge Base and firmware updates), you have to buy new units every 3 years, and they ain’t cheap!! Even with the R2007/8 issues, we’re still benefitting substantially from the Riverbeds in other areas, such as big files used in marketing, email, etc. So we’ll just basically use them until they die, unless Riverbed and Autodesk come up with a solution that convinces new units would be cost-effective.

    In the meantime, because of a unique situation my company finds itself in, we’re probably going to have a fairly low-cost 20Mbit minimum symmetrical WAN connection between our offiices by summer’s end. This will do much to alleviate the lack of AutoCAD acceleration by the Riverbeds.


  8. I agree about the cover-up. Thank God for and Engineering Efficiency! We are considering Riverbed and if I would have not read this article we would have never been made aware of the issue; our Riverbed re-seller sure didn’t tell us nor did our Autodesk re-seller (maybe they didn’t know?). For the cost of these appliances this is NEED TO KNOW to KEEP YOUR JOB information to consider when making the decision. For us as end users, we are making quite a commitment to Riverbed when directing our upper management in going this way and typically get “OK…we will do it and spend the money BUT it better work or y___ a__ i_ g__ss” (you can fill in the blanks) response. We still have good reason to “say the course” with Riverbed but nevertheless, our Riverbed re-seller should have made us aware. We were on LDT 2006 and just upgraded to LDT 2008 and C3D 2008 the first of the year. If I would have known about this issue before the new-year we may have stayed on LDT 2006 and just upgraded our C3D to 2008. C3D is the end goal here, and the only program the really benefits us at upgrade time. Besides it works on Vault which doesn’t rely on the Riverbed as much since files are check-in \ checked-out to your local C:\ drive.

    Again, our Riverbed re-seller in the 4thQ last year should have given us this information or made us aware of the webcast. It might have changed some decisions we have already made and implemented up to this point. My hopes are Autodesk with work with Riverbed and fix the issue for the 2010 file format (assuming there is a switch).

    Bottom line, like engineering, we now know the issue and “I don’t care about your problems…FIX IT!” We want to use Riverbed and have WAN office connectivity in the worse way. We can see it is the future.

  9. Lastly, I did want to add, I do commend Riverbed for putting out the webcast! It was very informative about the finite details of the issue. I think there needs to be some direction within the company that re-sellers and marketing discloses this information right away to end users. It is the right thing to do and is good business. Folks are far less upset if you are upfront with them. They don’t want to read about it in some blog they got up way to early in the morning to read.