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By Hansang Bae, CTO, RiverbedTechnology
Nov 9, 2017 -- It’s almost a given that your organization is in some stage of an "infrastructure makeover." This can be a complete, rapid move to the cloud, upgrading legacy systems or meeting a particular set of compliance criteria. Your IT team is constantly in various phases of development, deployment and maintenance, which can max out their capabilities and reduce efficiency.
Already stretched thin, they have to focus much of their energy on operational and network-related tasks and, ultimately, have to try to gauge the impact to the user experience with hope and a prayer. However, there are a variety of technologies that, when put at the center of an infrastructure refresh, allow IT to better contribute to the business through more efficient utilization and maintenance of technology assets, more efficient network management, higher quality support and cost savings.
An SD-WAN is a network that uses a software layer to handle the management and operation of a wide area network. This is an ideal choice for businesses attempting to become more agile by transitioning to a cloud-based infrastructure. The benefits of moving to the cloud and lowering TCO of IT costs due to the dynamic availability of IT resources have been well-documented. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the traditional network has become a barrier for business agility because of its slow-n-steady DNA.
In fact, a study that we at Riverbed Technology recently conducted revealed that 93% of IT decision makers report cloud-related network issues monthly due to outdated network infrastructure. Managing network traffic, bandwidth availability, and performance are demanding on resources and add to the overall complexity of a traditional network. Considering SD-WAN technology as an addition to your infrastructure refresh becomes easy when you think about the additional bandwidth challenges (like managing the network to distribute high-volume video content and the growth of mobile application use).
Typically, saving money and maximizing resources are top of mind for businesses intending to deploy SD-WAN technology. This may seem simplistic, but breaking it down to these two drivers is a great, concise way to get the attention of business owners. Also, they go hand in hand when viewing the benefits of SD-WAN technology for IT teams. Ensuring network efficiency and connectivity are additional high priorities for IT as business operations become more distributed and applications and their workloads move to the cloud. An SD-WAN manages this by taking advantage of additional sources of bandwidth, including broadband internet, which is less expensive than relying on traditional multiprotocol label switching (MLPS) for connectivity.
Additionally, an SD-WAN provides better security posture because every device will have the same traffic and security rules -- all the time, every time, without exception. Finally, it’s not enough for SD-WAN to solve network engineers’ pain points -- a VPN and complex routing come to mind. It’s a great foundation to build on, but SD-WAN must solve business problems for it to be relevant.
Implementing an SD-WAN as part of any infrastructure initiative does more than just reduce the expense of connectivity. It allows you to more fully realize the flexibility and savings of cloud-based services. IT personnel who would be responsible for much of these operational tasks are unshackled. Team members get back the time they would have otherwise needed to devote to network support requirements and can focus on other areas of business such as new management objectives, supporting internal users and, most importantly, the customers. This newfound efficiency and effectiveness derived through the use of SD-WAN technology provides tangible business value.
The term virtualization in technology and how it fits into any infrastructure makeover initiative typically means you are virtualizing hardware. Hardware virtualization allows connected computers to create virtualized versions of themselves on host computers to better manage resources. The most prevalent hardware virtualization choice is to virtualize servers. As businesses transform their infrastructure -- which can be both vast and expensive depending on the size of the company -- they should consider beginning with their server infrastructure. For small to medium-sized businesses, server virtualization is an excellent choice for driving digital initiatives inexpensively while also taking advantage of previous investments in hardware (you don’t have to buy new machines; you can virtualize environments on existing resources).
These virtual environments can also emulate different machine types and operating systems. For any organization looking for a greater migration to the cloud or wanting to take advantage of containers, virtualization is an excellent option as both are largely built in virtual environments.
As organizations execute their cloud strategies and update their infrastructures accordingly, microservices can play a major role. It has become imperative for organizations to deploy applications that are cloud-ready or cloud-based to support the complexity and expectations of today’s consumers, and microservices have been the preferred architectural structure of these apps. By breaking down a monolithic legacy application into independent components that work together, organizations can deliver a more flexible, scalable application environment. A microservice architecture opens the door for continuous delivery and deployment of large, complex applications -- a true victory for development, the DevOps team and the overall IT organization. It also enables an organization to evolve its technology stack, scale and be more resilient with time, which is the essence of an infrastructure makeover.
The execution of an infrastructure makeover is essential for any business that wants to be competitive in today’s digital, distributed and highly performant marketplaces. This means updating legacy infrastructures holding back any initiatives that can’t keep up with the increasing demands of today’s user or consumer. Luckily, there are technologies such as SD-WAN, virtualization and microservices that not only help make this makeover less painful -- and less costly -- to businesses, but allow IT to evolve and better execute any infrastructure makeover initiatives.