Today, Riverbed has officially announced the release of their SD-WAN solution. The name of the product line is SteelConnect™ and, as expected, has unified the visions of Riverbed’s in-house development initiative named Project Tiger and Ocedo’s unified connectivity fabric approach. Let’s take a look at some of the details surrounding today’s announcement.
Solid Vision with an SD-WAN Approach
For a product which hadn’t officially been released yet, there has been a decent amount that has been written about the platform and direction (including the Tech Talk series featured here on the Gestalt IT blog). A lot of this information was certainly sourced from Riverbed’s own briefings but now, with an official release, we are able to confirm some of the major features previously discussed.
One of the more significant points is that Riverbed views their software-defined approach as more of an ubiquitous and unified connectivity fabric than a pure-play SD-WAN solution. What does that mean? SteelConnect™ isn’t just a special router that sits at the edge of your sites determining path selection on WAN circuits. Instead, the focus is on unified management of the WAN, branch wired/wireless networks, and public cloud connectivity. The key being management of connectivity regardless of where the client or host resides.
Not surprisingly, application awareness and performance also play a large role in the Riverbed software-defined approach. Building on many years of application-centric networking, the platform has advantages in identifying, prioritizing, optimizing, securing, and delivering many kinds of application traffic.
Configuring connectivity into and out of public cloud instances has been a challenging point for many organizations so I’m excited to see that Ocedo’s virtual edge device has made the transition into the Riverbed platform. Application centric networking to the public cloud is something that more and more organizations are going to find advantageous. While this technology is still relegated to AWS (the clear leader in IaaS), I’m still hopeful that Riverbed will continue to develop this concept into other public cloud offerings. You can read more about that feature set here in one of my previous posts in this Riverbed Tech Talk series.
Riverbed is being very open about their product road map and feature timelines
As can be expected with any version 1.0 product, not every possible feature has made it into the product on day 1. Riverbed has done a good job on focusing on the features that best fit their vision for next-generation connectivity management. They have supplemented that focus with clearly communicating their intent and product direction as they add features to the platform. The chart below should provide some clarity on what is being released today versus features coming in future iterations.
Riverbed is committed to integrating SteelConnect™ in to their industry leading SteelHead™ WAN optimization and SteelCentral™ management platforms.
Existing Riverbed customers will obviously be interested to know what Riverbed’s approach is going to be in relation to integrating existing product lines in to the new SteelConnect™ platform. On day one, both product lines will continue to operate independently. This is status quo for existing SteelHead™ customers as those appliances are likely already inline between the users and the WAN/Internet edge. Looking forward a couple months, Riverbed is committing to integrations between SteelHead™ and SteelConnect™ for coordinated routing decisions, or service-chaining as it is known in the SDN community. Service-chaining will allow the SteelHead™ appliance to sit outside of the traffic path, and only have relevant traffic forwarded to it by the SteelConnect™ device when required. In the third quarter of 2016, Riverbed is planning on releasing a unified appliance that will incorporate their WAN optimization and connectivity fabric into one unified appliance.
As for management, the WAN optimization and unified fabrics will have their own management interfaces for the remainder of this year. That being said, Riverbed is anticipating have both products managed through a converged SteelCentral™ management interface in early 2017.
If I had to pick only one highlight that differentiates Riverbed apart from their competitors, it would be the clear vision that the SDN technologies employed to improve wide-area networking don’t have to stop at the WAN edge. By integrating branch wired/wirelss and public cloud networking into the same management platform, Riverbed is extending the flexibility, security, and business focused approach all the way down to the end hosts and users. Riverbed’s history of application centric networking is also going to contribute to strong features in and around application awareness and forwarding. If the Riverbed SteelConnect™ platform intersts you, you can read more about it at http://www.riverbed.com/SteelConnect.
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