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Showcasing the Power of SteelConnect’s RESTful APIs

Shannon Davis
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Some of the most exciting developments in technology come when innovations collide. Such is the case with how people in our team around the world have found ways to connect SteelConnect’s RESTful API with Siri and Alexa, enabling voice-activated interaction with SteelConnect and unique ways to manage network infrastructure.

I’ve also been doing some work on this front for some time and wanted to share what I’ve discovered and developed so far. I’ve been working with students from Monash University for a couple of years now as part of their undergraduate course and they’ve made some fantastic contributions in the area of network management automation. The students’ work has even caught the attention of Riverbed Product Management, and we’ve had a number of meetings to run through their development work.

SteelConnect Virtual Gateway location tracking

I frequently run a SteelConnect Virtual Gateway on my Mac to demo our solution to customers. As part of the demo, I usually change my laptop’s site address to the customer’s address, and then I try to show how my laptop would behave like a customer’s gateway in an NFV (network functions virtualisation) environment. This allows me to showcase the power of SDWAN when securely connecting to cloud services like Azure and AWS.  In my setup, I have a SteelConnect Virtual Gateway, Virtual SteelHead, and Windows 10 VM all service chained within VMWare Fusion.

I thought this would be a great use case to show our SteelConnect API, so I began writing a script to do this automatically. My hope is that this dynamic and automated address changing functionality could also be utilised by mobile platforms, such as ships, trains and emergency services vehicles that are already using SD-WAN services to securely connect back to corporate infrastructure.

Using inbuilt location tracking on my Mac, I achieved this by writing a script that:

  • Called a program that gave me my latitude and longitude
  • Translated the latitude/longitude via the Google Maps API into a street address
  • Updated the specific site’s information in SteelConnect Manager through our own SteelConnect API services.

Google Dialogflow

It was after this initial project that I began working with the students from Monash University. As part of their course we worked together on how we could further develop Riverbed’s API capabilities and provide some exciting examples of the interactivity that could be generated. We started out looking to replicate what Romain Jourdan, now Director, Technical Product Evangelist, did with Amazon Alexa, but using Google Assistant instead.

We managed to find a great service called API.ai, which provided integration into Google Assistant (shortly afterwards, Google acquired API.ai, renaming the service Google Dialogflow). It also allows you to easily hook SteelConnect into chatbot services like Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and Slack.

Even though voice control is a cool idea, we found Dialogflow often had difficulty comprehending what we were telling it to do, so ultimately, we concentrated more around how we could control SteelConnect using chatbot services.  Here’s a short video showing this being run from my mobile phone via Slack:

Google DayDream VR

Continuing the work with Monash University, I invited students to help me create a fun proof of concept for controlling a SteelConnect SD-WAN instance with VR (virtual reality).

Using Google Daydream VR goggles, the students and I developed our VR app to control SteelConnect. We built up the environment to show SD-WAN sites on a globe, display the status of their VPN connections to other sites and which WANs they were participating in. This may not be super practical for everyday use, but it does show the true power of RESTful APIs. Hopefully it will inspire our customers to think outside the box on how they can use RESTful APIs to achieve further automation of their network management

Here is a quick video of me creating and deleting a site from within the SteelConnect VR application (look for the cameo from our CEO Paul Mountford):

If you’re looking for some more detailed instructions on how to make this all work, I’ll be putting some further posts together which show you how. Stay tuned for further updates on some cool work we’re doing which shows how Riverbed is pushing the boundaries in digital performance and end user experience.

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