GartnerITxpo 2015 Recap: Let’s Welcome the Branch Office to the Software-defined Movement


Looking back on the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2015 a couple weeks ago, the key takeaway for me is that technology is finally in a place that enables IT pros to help the business how the business wants to be helped, not the other way around.

Traditionally, the CTO has implemented systems and applications with the sole objective of meeting its operational goals, forcing the other business units to adapt. But now, thanks to technologies like SD-WAN, other business leaders such as the CIO, CFO and COO understand how they can use technology to help them achieve their own business goals.

Whether it’s the ever-growing number of organizations now riding the SD-WAN wave, or the fact that the software-defined concept is less abstract to non-IT professionals, I spent a lot of my time in Orlando answering the question, ‘What can I actually do with SD-WAN?’ My answer: Let’s pull the branch into this software defined movement.

Take a moment to consider the branch, which is always playing second fiddle to the data center. It sometimes seems like while vendors launch new solutions for the data center and the media’s coverage focuses on maintaining data center systems and security, the branch is largely ignored. The data center gets the latest and greatest technologies for data protection, backup and security, while the branch remains stuck in the 1990’s with tape backups and no advanced physical security measures like fingerprint scanners and man traps.  

That always raises red flags with me, because if there’s anywhere in your organization where you need to improve operations with automation and compute, it’s your branch offices and other remote locations.  

On average, companies are operating 55 remote IT facilities for every large data center. Almost everyone I know works at branch offices, about 50% of all data resides outside the data center, and IT has to devote 50% of its budget to branch offices.

Of course, it’s easy to ask, ‘Why wouldn’t you want redundant storage, complete UPS systems and comprehensive physical and cyber security measures in place at your branches?’ But the answer has also traditionally been easy: ‘It’s too expensive.’

That’s where the Zero Branch IT model Riverbed is pioneering with solutions like SteelFusion can bring 21st century technology to the branch. Imagine:

  • No servers. No storage. No backup.
  • Instant provisioning. Instant recovery.
  • Complete data security. Full visibility.
  • Apps that simply work.

You can consolidate all applications and associated infrastructure into the data center, which significantly reduces costs while also improving efficiency and productivity at all branch locations.

Automating branch operations is a critical piece of this puzzle because you secure and protect 100% of branch data by moving it into the data center without compromising local performance and availability. Automation enables instant recovery from power outages with little or no data loss, and the quick and easy deployment of new services and applications to the branches. Security is also much improved. For instance, you won’t discover a breach after the fact because an attacker found a weakness created by someone forgetting to install a new patch at some remote branch. And, you do all of this with a centralized management dashboard in the data center.

We are seeing a tectonic shift in technology, driven by compute to reduce complexity as opposed to complexity being a badge of honor. Up until now, IT pros would talk about how hard and complicated tech is, and how the business can’t implement these tools without their knowledge and expertise. Make no mistake, IT is not going anywhere. CTO and IT departments can leverage the software-defined movement to demonstrate how technology can have a direct impact on an organization achieve its business goals and put a specific dollar figure to those cost savings. And the SD-WAN movement will finally arm the IT staff with the wherewithal to pull off the age old request.

Technology still saves the day, but no longer with flashy new solutions that only IT pros can wrap their heads around, but by showing how it can make the business more agile. 

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