Industry voice: The next generation of networks will be built with software, not hardware, says Riverbed’s senior director of advanced technology, Paul Griffiths
Software defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) are a step change for the networking industry. They will enable chief information officers to knit together myriad communications infrastructures to provide ubiquitous, unified connectivity for their organisations - spanning WAN, remote local area networks (LAN) and the cloud.
In truth, legacy approaches to managing distributed networks and routing – hardware bound, hard coded, inflexible and error prone – have not changed much in 20 years. But according to International Data Corporation (IDC), software defined networking is taking the next evolutionary step – becoming uniquely optimised to cost-effectively meet the growing requirements of cloud computing.
IDC's latest worldwide research into SD-WAN found that the top three motivators for those considering its adoption are consistent security (36%), price (35%) and reduced complexity (31%). With this in mind I believe that solutions like Riverbed’s new SteelConnect SD-WAN will disrupt the legacy network routing market to give organisations the performance and agility they need today.
The ability to replace thousands of manually configured routers with a virtual network design, based on zero touch provisioning – which automates the day-to-day management of the network – and easy change management, is revolutionary. Just imagine single click and instant provisioning into cloud environments.
Crucially, SD-WAN provides a cloud based central management capability. Starting from a virtual, menu driven interface you can design your network ahead of anything physical coming online. It replaces the complexity of network management with intuitive workflow, simplified design and deployment, followed by automated monitoring and management of network operations.
In a world where cyber crime is on the rise, cyber resilience is critical as we move towards digitised government. SD-WAN enables you to meet this challenge head on by leveraging secure transport network services and providing integrated firewalls to ensure the secure delivery of all applications across your hybrid enterprise.
With SteelConnect SD-WAN, performance and security policies follow people and equipment across WANs, LANs, and cloud networks. Virtual access zones follow users, providing consistent connectivity while enforcing enterprise-wide policies on data protection, passwords and security. In effect, network management teams no longer need to manage isolated silos of the network; now they can manage the WAN as it is, hybrid but unified.
Cost-effective secure internet transport and the ability to choose networks in line with ever changing user needs will enable you to squeeze unnecessary costs out of the operation. For example, you can maximise the use of lower cost connectivity options with zero touch provisioning and centralised management.
It can be possible to reduce the 'hands on' element of provisioning by up to 90%, and to provision new sites in less half the time than with traditional methods. All of this provides a clear potential to provide savings in deploying and maintaining a hybrid WAN architecture.
SteelConnect uniquely provides a simple workflow and menu-driven virtual network design based on sites, zones that can go across sites, uplinks and rules. It uses a ‘shadow’ appliance that stands in for the physical appliance, removing the need to ever touch a physical device in a remote location.
It drives apps and data at speed, based on their priority, down the network path that you select when setting up your business policy.
It is possible to validate whether the policy worked, drawing on the unified visibility of network performance and end-user experience. If it did not, you can analyse the reasons then change the policy instantly to ensure that everything does function as intended.
This inherent agility enables you to respond quickly to the user and business needs while creating a highly available architecture that virtualises and dynamically leverages multiple links at remote locations.
To do this, Riverbed SteelConnect uses three core elements:
- SteelConnect Manager: A centralised and multi-tenant management portal providing an intuitive and simplified workflow for designing, deploying and managing distributed and hybrid networks.
- SteelConnect Gateway: A line of physical and virtual secure WAN gateways that provide unified connectivity (point-to-point and full-mesh) and enforcement of global policy across on-premises and cloud network environments, zero-touch provisioning, automated VPN management and next generation firewall and threat protection capabilities.
- SteelConnect Switches and Access Points: A line of remote LAN switches and Wi-Fi access points that support zero-touch provisioning, automate global enforcement of access control policies and provide complete visibility into connected users and devices.
With SteelConnect, we’re delivering an application defined networking solution that draws on Riverbed’s application DNA and provides unmatched visibility. This provides the agility, simplicity and speed that enterprises need to manage today’s complex cloud and hybrid architectures.
It is the first and only SD-WAN solution to unify connectivity across the entire network from cloud to data centre to edge to mobile device. This tames the complexity of hybrid environments to ensure the fast, agile and secure delivery of applications that improves business performance and reduces costs. And it makes it possible to align with business imperatives in a few mouse clicks.
Your network should be agile, efficient and reliable – fit for the digital age. Managing it should be equally simple.
Find out more here about how Riverbed solutions can accelerate application and network performance throughout your organisation.