C-level briefing: Riverbed Technology takes CBR through applying software-defined networking concepts to the wide area network.
Software-defined networking, which provides an end-to-end view of the network through one control plane, is gaining more and more recognition due to the flexibility it offers businesses to control their networks.
According to Riverbed’s Deputy CTO Frank Lyonnet and Technical Director of the Advanced Technology Group Paul Griffiths, it is time this approach was applied to the wide area network (WAN), which in this context simply refers to the network used to relay data across the different branches of an organisation.
The key advantage a software-defined approach brings to WAN, according to Griffiths, is the ability to go beyond the data centre to the applications themselves.
"Actually the whole concept of SD-WAN is understanding what is happening from an application point of view. I generally tend to suggest SDN is really within the confines of a data centre. That environment has actually become a little more agile for people from an SDN point of view."
SD-WAN, in Griffiths’s view, allows organisations to take an application-first approach across their network.
"Instead of working from the network level and packets that are being used to transport the application data and then defining your network moving upwards, it is looking at applications moving down the network," says Griffiths.
What does this mean for an enterprise? Part of this, Griffiths explains, is that enterprises must understand that their key business-critical application is not always going to be their key application.
"At the end of a month, your key application may be access to a billing system. But at other times it may be collaboration tools."
So the visibility that SD-WAN provides over applications allows you to answer several key questions about these applications and your network.
"Is there a particular WAN that I am going to transport that application traffic across? If it’s a particular network sharing bandwidth with other applications do I need to control the amount of bandwidth that application is using and protect bandwidth for other applications?
"If it’s going across the internet, perhaps via a back-up link, then do I need to secure that?"
"More and more we are talking about closing the loop between what we see and what we are able to do or change," adds Lyonnet.
"We get the choice of where we send the traffic. We can sense where it is degrading. For me, it’s only the beginning."
The key advantage is that this will increase agility, says Griffiths.
"How to improve the agility of the business is something we’re hearing a lot of from organisations today. Key to that is focusing on how they can improve the applications within the business. An application that performs well for the business allows the business itself to perform well.
"The opposite is unfortunately also true."