The Future of Networking is Here


Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. Do you remember when ‘racking & stacking’ was a thing? To ‘deploy’ infrastructure meant you had to order some hardware, find space on a rack in a data center, do some crazy color-coded (or not) cabling magic, and then pop open a little laptop on a stand in the loud and cold data center for an hour or two running a bunch of brittle and error-prone command lines to configure whatever router, switch or device you had just plugged in.

Or maybe you had to take a trip to an office far from your normal environment, just to bring up an office’s connectivity… and hope that you brought the right network equipment and had access to the janitor’s closet…er…telco closet to get that device up and running.

Crazy Network Cabling

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Or more recently, perhaps the powers that be issued a proclamation that the company was now a ‘cloud-first’ organization and cloud integrations needed to be done ‘yesterday’ and all sites had to have access to everything…unless they didn’t (meaning there were custom access configurations required based on the office or user group or what have you).

Does any of this sound familiar?

If it does and it makes you break out in a cold sweat or keeps you up at night, those days are over. Let me explain.

Networking is changing. It’s evolving. It’s growing up.

It’s all about clouds, visibility, performance, and ease of use

In case you missed it, Riverbed had an important webcast a few weeks ago. ‘Networking for the Cloud Era‘ presented numerous announcements to let you sleep restfully at night, especially if you have anything to do with clouds, enterprise networks, or just the happiness of your end-users and customers.

Subbu Iyer, Riverbed’s CMO, kicked off the webcast with a state of the cloud. According to Iyer, Gartner predicts spending on public cloud services will reach over $250 billion in 2017. And while this clearly indicates an increased confidence in the cloud with its compelling benefits of agility, innovation, and cost-savings, Iyer points out there is one component that has not ‘kept up’—networking.

Gartner statistics - Cloud is Past the

Here’s a little tip—Riverbed is changing this. Actually, we have been for many years now. And what we are doing is building upon the years of experience, customer feedback, and innovations within the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) space, and simply making it better, more unified, and increasingly powerful.

Oh yeah, and one of the big items of this webcast was this…easy, single-click connectivity with the cloud. But more about that in a minute.

Let’s think back to the traditional deployment of networking equipment. Most yester-year implementations required not only having the actual devices in-hand, but also a lot of physical and mental legwork to prepare for a networking build-out or ‘upgrade.’ And don’t forget about all of the command line interface (CLI) code you had to design and push when you did finally get that equipment wired in.

Here’s a twist for you.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to ‘design everything about your network before you have to buy any hardware?’

Ummm. Yes? This is exactly what Josh Dobies, VP of Marketing at Riverbed, postulated during this webcast. And, this is exactly one of the many capabilities Riverbed SteelConnect enables.

But wait! There’s more. Dobies outlined some critical design considerations that went into the latest version of our SD-WAN solutions, namely:

  • Ubiquitous and unified connectivity,
  • Business-aligned orchestration, and
  • A cloud-centric workflow.

What it essentially boils down to is networking of the future. (But it’s here now!)

So, let’s get back to cloud. It’s here to stay. It’s growing. And, it’s critical to corporate survival, not just competitiveness. Cloud integration within the enterprise network topology is a must-have. Companies want cloud access as part of their corporate network, especially as many modern applications require multi-cloud services.

But, as many have discovered, integration is prone to lengthy timelines, failures, and budget over-runs. Simply said, it’s not that simple.

Integration with clouds

The times they are a-changin’. While things are, indeed, becoming increasingly complex, they are becoming simplified through innovative solutions. In the webcast, Reshmi Yandapalli, Principal Program Manager for Microsoft Azure, stated there are several barriers to connectivity to the cloud, specifically:

  • Accessibility—users want the same type of access they are used to with traditional infrastructure but without downtime
  • Security—they want the same or better security with any cloud assets
  • Quality and Control—similar to security

A blending of cloud and on-premise infrastructure and networks is a given in this cloud-first era. And, while racking and stacking physical infrastructure may be waning, ‘racking and stacking’ clouds is not. Yandapalli believes the solution lies in SD-WAN as a means to ‘bring the cloud closer to the user.’

In the webcast, Yandapalli, Dobies, and Angelo Comazzetto, Technical Director of Cloud Services at Riverbed, demonstrated SteelConnect’s new ‘one-click’ connectivity for Microsoft Azure. Once an Azure account is connected within SteelConnect, all Azure VNETs are imported and populated. From there, a virtual machine can be deployed in minutes, bolstered by a full automation of finding subnets and gateways, updating of firmware, and binding VPNs to all other sites (provided this is allowed by business rule policies).

Riverbed SteelConnect with Microsoft Azure

Oh, and a side note here, this same type of cloud connectivity and integration is already available in SteelConnect for Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Confused at all? The webcast shows it in action with Comazzetto delivering a hands-on demo. From using shadow appliances to plan an entire company’s deployment without physically having the hardware, to gathering telemetry on links and routes, to automatically building VPN tunnels across all other sites AND into Azure. He also demonstrated how to get very detailed insights into what applications are running where and by whom. Bottom line? SteelConnect with the new SteelHead SD makes racking and stacking of cloud infrastructure work like magic.

As Comazzetto puts it: ‘It’s not complicated anymore.’

Solutions drive success

SteelConnect has great momentum, according to Iyer, with 1,600+ free trials and over 300 customers using SD-WAN solutions. In fact, Riverbed customer GHD anticipates a savings of USD $1 million with the implementation of Riverbed solutions.

As Brett Tancred, Global Technology Manager at GHD, outlines in the webcast, it was a technology journey where offices big and small needed to be connected to the GHD global network. Tancred said the project of connecting just 30 offices would have taken many months to accomplish with tremendous expenses of MPLS lines and equipment, but the implementation using Riverbed SD-WAN solutions was completed in a few weeks with reduced travel. In fact, user feedback has been positive, with some users even saying the network was faster than before.

With increased user satisfaction, a more centralized global network management, and a projected cost savings of USD $1 million annually, you can understand why GHD will continue their Riverbed solutions rollout.Tangled Ethernet Cords - src:

The cloud’s promise of moving CapEx to OpEx is compelling, but as implementations and integrations have become more complex with more providers and subsequently, more offerings, successful networking, monitoring, and integration can only fully be achieved using a software-defined solution.

And guess what? WAN optimization, coupled with SD-WAN, Application Performance Management (APM), and Network Performance Management (NPM) means that things become a bit simpler with visibility and performance improvements to boot. And, with this, OpEx can actually be driven down.

But don’t just take my word for it. There are plenty of smart people professing the same thing. I encourage you to read Milind Bhise’s article which provides more details on the announcements made during the webcast, as well as the Riverbed vision on networking, redefined.

And, should you want to view a replay of ‘Networking for the Cloud Era,’ you can, of course, stream it from the cloud.

Anybody care to share any of their data center cabling worst and best practices?

Here’s my best practice. Recycle those cables and make your networks software-defined.

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