Blog Highlights: How SD-WAN Simplifies and Accelerates Today's Diverse Infrastructures


Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is a hot topic for today's hybrid-infrastructure, cloud-connected networks. Mark Woods, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager at Riverbed, recently wrote two blog posts that serve as a great primer on the advantages of the game-changing technology. We've summarized the highlights below, so you can enjoy his key insights in a more bite-sized format.

1. A perfect storm of complexity

To appreciate the benefits of SD-WAN, it's useful to look back at where we're coming from. As Woods explains in his post "How SD-WAN Simplifies Cloud Connectivity," network administration has been very hardware oriented, requiring configuration of routers and gateways on an individual basis using scripts or command line interfaces. Engineers require intimate knowledge of network topography, down to IP addresses, ports, and access control lists.

Say goodbye to the craftsman approach

Woods calls this the craftsman approach, and while a craftsman can certainly create a fine piece of furniture, it's no way to build or run a modern, hybrid network that relies on multiple transport types. The need to support cloud computing adds another layer of complexity, as does an accelerating pace of business with which engineers must keep pace. It's truly, Woods concludes, a perfect storm for network engineers.

The solution is software-defined WAN.

Rediscovering simplicity

As Woods explains, two of the major SD-WAN innovations are 1) a central point of control and 2) policy-based management. Now, large numbers of devices can be administered from a single management console, typically an intuitive GUI. Meanwhile, policy-based management allows administrators to create security and performance policies — often derived from larger business goals — that instantly propagate across the infrastructure.

A better network lifecycle

An SD-WAN solution like Riverbed SteelConnect helps ease and simplify every stage of creating and running a network. It starts at the design phase: Engineers can plan and visualize the entire network before actually deploying any devices. Placeholder "shadow" appliances stand in for the real things before a single appliance needs to be purchased.

And once everything is planned, the engineer is done; no need to travel to any other sites to build and implement. That's thanks to zero-touch provisioning, which lets IT ship preconfigured SteelConnect gateway appliances to remote sites where an unskilled person can plug them in.

Once connected, the gateways talk to the SteelConnect controller to update software, configure, conduct remote tests, and come online. Then with one click, the engineer can connect a SteelConnect gateway located at branch office to the AWS or Microsoft Azure cloud. The engineer's design becomes effortless reality.

Once the network is up, Woods says, SD-WAN's centralized control and automatic, policy-based management allow for simple, fast, effective management from a single, convenient location, so day-to-day management becomes a cinch. Large-scale networking changes that would have been painful and disruptive under the "craftsman" model can now be accomplished with just a few clicks. The difference is phenomenal.

Read Woods' full blog post for all the details.

2. Accelerate the cloud, too

Woods' follow-up post, "How SD-WAN Improves Cloud Application Performance," then delves into, well, exactly what the title suggests. Cloud application performance is now crucial for end-users, and thankfully, the SteelConnect SD-WAN solution can accelerate performance in several important ways:

  1. Identify and prioritize network traffic by application: Engineers can craft rules so that each application's traffic follows an optimal network path. Critical traffic can enjoy high bandwidth and minimal latency while low-importance data is shunted to the Internet.
  2. Steer traffic around last-mile congestion: Thanks to detailed metrics, SteelConnect is always aware of the health of every network link connected to an SD-WAN gateway, so it can steer certain traffic down paths that experience less disruption.
  3. Combine SD-WAN with WAN optimization: If all available paths are problematic, built-in WAN optimization can mitigate the performance hit with several techniques, such as using real-time compression to greatly decrease traffic's bandwidth requirements.

Build-in capabilities like these allow SteelConnect SD-WAN to optimize cloud application performance and keep end-users happy. Read the full blog post for more details.

Additional resources

For further reading beyond his blogs, Woods recommends the free Riverbed eBook: Essential Guide to Cloud Networking with SD-WAN. You can also check out the Riverbed SteelConnect home page.