The Tipping Point: Technological and Organizational Challenges of Cloud-First Strategies


“By 2020, anything other than a cloud-only strategy for new IT initiatives will require justification at more than 30% of large-enterprise organizations,” writes Kasey Panetta in "Cloud Computing Enters Its Second Decade." (Gartner, January 30, 2017.) And we're seeing that shift already, as many businesses have created roadmaps for decommissioning their on-premises datacenters and migrating their workloads to SaaS and IaaS. As Riverbed Deputy CTO, Frank Lyonnet's job is to help such customers consider the best architectural options to harness the incredible business potential of the cloud.

Lyonnet contends that only through a next-generation software-defined networking (SD-WAN) solution like Riverbed SteelConnect™ can businesses escape the limitations of legacy infrastructure design and realize the full benefits of their cloud investments.

The cloud-first tipping point

According to Lyonnet's direct experience, the IT world has reached a tipping point. The cloud has entered its second decade. Throughout all those years, the roadblocks for cloud adoption have been addressed. "There are close to none left including security considerations," he says. "Nothing can stop the cloud from being the new normal anymore."

A few years ago, customers started to focus on the challenge of migrating their on-premises collaboration system to a SaaS equivalent, like Microsoft Office 365. This was the first trigger for them to consider something different for their WAN and evolve toward hybrid networking. "But now, it's no longer about a few of those workloads; it's about most of them," he says. "IaaS comes heavily in the picture. Suddenly their WAN spans outside their premises to multiple cloud locations. This radically changes the pictures and drives people back to the drawing board.”

But Lyonnet finds that organizations often struggle to find an ideal networking architecture in their quest for a seamless hybrid IT that combines on-premises and cloud assets. In particular, organizations that fail to fully reconsider legacy pre-cloud organizational and technological aspects will fail to reap the full business benefits of their cloud investments.

New technologies, old strategies, poor results

Traditional IT organizations are split into silos, with each group responsible for only a portion of IT operations. Each silo has its own responsibilities, tools, and goals. They work primarily to cover their own responsibilities. This outdated organizational strategy fails to maximize the business's objectives and bottom line, a fact thrown into stark relief when a game-changing technology like cloud enters the picture.

"Going through all those silos means that networking, security, and cloud-ready considerations are tackled by different teams that have different understandings of what the end goals should be," says Lyonnet. "It's a completely fragmented way of attacking the problem, with each IT silo using their own legacy solutions and undermining the ultimate goal of achieving cloud-based OpEx and business agility benefits."

In some cases, Lyonnet has seen legacy IT organizations trying to replicate their legacy network organization in the cloud, with the only difference being they're manipulating virtual rather than physical network components. "Talk about missing the forest for the trees," he says.

Liberating IT from silos

Long story short: Forget silos. Since IT can now transition most of its infrastructure to the cloud, there's no reason to maintain teams in isolation for each aspect of IT.

"There's been a real shift in who I talk to when I visit customers. Before, I'd mostly talk only to the network silo head," says Lyonnet. "But more and more, I find myself in front of a combination of network, security, and cloud people. This is a strong marker of cloud maturity. I'm even seeing the first occurrences of converged departments with all those areas connected together under a DevOps label, and when it comes to SD-WAN that's where the real interesting conversations happen."

Just as IT is realigning to better serve the business, Riverbed designed SteelConnect to align the traditional WAN with the cloud era.

With SteelConnect, IT can orchestrate all of its business via a unified management console for cloud, WAN, and LAN/WLAN, simplifying a once-complex legacy infrastructure, collapsing the silos, and liberating IT staff to focus on more important tasks that directly impact the business bottom line. It's just so easy.

Change months to hours — or even minutes

Thanks to SteelConnect, complex branch office deployments that took months to achieve with traditional solutions can be accomplished in hours or minutes. IT can establish direct secure IPsec connectivity from those branches to their cloud instances with a single click. They can instantly do the same between different cloud instances, combining Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure at will and with just an additional click to set up application acceleration and bandwidth reduction.

"It's incredibly rewarding when customers fully realize the business benefits of SteelConnect. They then become passionate SteelConnect advocates eager to demonstrate the product to their peers," he says. "With zero-touch provisioning, in 15 minutes they are able to provision users in a new location for a new business workload."

Typically that would take multiple months with traditional technologies, but with SteelConnect everything they need is at their fingertips.

Further, as the network grows to new branches and cloud locations, those locations are added to existing global policies. Hence, growth of the network does not result in a commensurate increase in management overhead.

Only SteelConnect

This just scratches the surface of SteelConnect's impressive SD-WAN capabilities. According to Lyonnet, many of his customers see SteelConnect as the only solution that can let them achieve the full benefits of their cloud adoption.

Indeed, with SteelConnect, Riverbed has delivered an SD-WAN solution built specifically for cloud-first enterprise architectures, which helps unlock the cost savings and agility expected from cloud-centric network, not to mention added performance benefits for greater ROI and accelerated adoption. Read more below to learn how this extraordinary solution can do the same for your business.