Connect with Thought Leaders and Peers at ONUG Fall 2018


In October 2017, I attended an ONUG event for the first time. I had just relocated to the US from Switzerland and this was my first conference in North America.

I was expecting a lot of network experts willing to discuss advanced capabilities with SDN and SD-WAN vendors. ONUG stands for Open Network User Group, right? Yes, most of the major SD-WAN players—including Riverbed, of course—were there to showcase their capabilities.

However, I was extremely surprised by the audience and positively impressed by the level of the discussions. What I learned later on, is that ONUG ‘s primary goal was to address “the need for a user-focused conference where IT executives can share best practices and challenges as they transformed their IT infrastructure for the digital economy.”

Technology for business outcomes

On their website, we can read that the goal of all ONUG events and working groups is to bring together the full IT community to allow IT business leaders to learn from peers, to make informed open infrastructure deployment decisions, and to create dialogue between the vendor and user communities to collectively drive open infrastructure choices and options via aggregated use case requirements.

ONUG audience

ONUG Fall 2017 End-User Audience by Role

It is no surprise then that IT business leaders are representing the majority of the audience. And to be honest, this is extremely valuable for everyone.

The usual format of IT conferences is sponsored-based speeches where vendors are paying to go on stage and lecture the audience about the latest and greatest of their portfolio. The ONUG format is very different.

IT leaders share their experiences about transforming IT from a cost center to a value-creation center. IT can push for new technologies that are compelling to the business and create new offerings, new revenue streams.

The central question really is “What business outcomes can technology support?”

ONUG is about networking for IT leaders

Networking is indeed part of the picture and, more specifically, SD-WAN. How SD-WAN can help to support agility and resiliency that the business requires was a topic in several discussions.

However, it is not just about networking—i.e., how users are connected to applications. During the CTO/CIO roundtables, the speakers would share their views on DevOps, Containers, Kubernetes, API, automation, continuous delivery and validation of the code. This was all in the context of innovating and providing more results and quicker to the business.

In fact, ONUG is mainly a networking opportunity for IT business leaders to meet, connect, and share their best practices. The hot topic was in 2017 (and again in 2018 is) how to drive digital transformation of the business.

Digital transformation is a journey

In 2017, Morgan Stanley’s speaker shared with the audience: “We are at step 1 or 2 (out of 10) of the Digital Transformation.”  This was a strong and bold statement from a large company’s representative and it highlighted that digital transformation is not a typical IT project but rather a long journey that requires strategic thinking and planning.

Digital transformation is not just about technology and adopting new tools. It’s also about rethinking processes, optimizing workflows, testing and failing and defining a new way to engage with the Business.

Adopting digital performance best practices will help you on the journey. One of those best practices is monitoring the experience of end users as they use new applications and digital services. With Riverbed SteelCentral Aternity, you can track the performance of every application including every transaction from the end user perspective—from click to render.

Office 365, Microsoft 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Aternity, End User Experience Monitoring, Digital Performance

Focusing on apps with high usage time but low UXI enables IT to prioritize their optimization efforts to where the payoff is largest.

Some companies, like GE, made the case that legacy IT is a blocker to digital transformation: “Making legacy better is not going to work on the long term. Instead of asking ourselves ‘How do I make legacy better?’, perhaps a better question is ‘Should I and how would I build from scratch?’”

Tools for monitoring network and application performance can help. With Riverbed SteelCentral NPM and APM, application dependency mapping has never been easier. You can identify the various components of your applications from the infrastructure—network, servers, VMs, containers, and services like DNS—down to the code and determine where there are performance issues impacting your business. This is how you can sort out the legacy pieces you want to keep or throw away.

APM Performance Management Business outcomes

The Application Performance Graph is a logical mapping of the App transactions

Cloud-native applications

If you decide to start from a blank page then adopting the cloud will help you build a new generation of cloud-native applications. These new apps can leverage services provided by the cloud vendor like databases, AI, and machine learning… It is also an opportunity to embrace new approaches and frameworks like DevOps, Microservices or Serverless (also known as Function-as-a-Service).

Cloud platforms can help you accelerate the development of new applications and answer the ever-growing needs of the business. It is with no surprise that big players like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are sponsors of ONUG 2018.

Cloud adoption has led us all to rethink the way we have designed networks for decades. Riverbed has taken the integration of the WAN with the cloud to the next level with SteelConnect SD-WAN. But deploying a virtual SD-WAN gateway into the cloud is just the first step. The SD-WAN instance needs to be inserted into a VPC in a way that allows seamless and secure communication between multiple cloud instances and the Enterprise network. Because the number of SD-WAN instances can rapidly exceed hundreds or thousands, the process must be totally automated. This is something that only Riverbed SteelConnect does.

GHD on the road to digital transformation

This year, I’ll be speaking on October 23, Tuesday about Powering Cloud-First Transformation together with Randy Taylor, Global Network Manager at GHD. Randy will explain the challenges that they faced and how they used Riverbed’s Cloud Networking technologies to support their growing business requirements and start their journey towards digital transformation.

I am looking forward to meeting you at ONUG in New York on October 22 and 23!

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