Riverbed Unveils SteelConnect SD-WAN Offering

The company wants to push beyond other SD-WAN products by enabling the orchestration of application delivery across WANs, remote LANs and the cloud.

cloud orchestration

Riverbed Technology officials, who six months ago announced the company's intent to move into the emerging SD-WAN market and in January bolstered its ambitions by acquiring Ocedo, are now rolling out the first of the company's products into the space.

The vendor on April 26 unveiled SteelConnect, a platform that officials said is pushing beyond what others in the crowded software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) space are offering by enabling businesses to orchestrate application delivery across hybrid WANs, remote LANs and cloud networks like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft's Azure.

SteelConnect builds off Riverbed's history in the WAN optimization space and combines with such products as Riverbed's SteelCentral visibility technology to give customers the tools they need to more quickly and easily design and provision networks built for an increasingly cloud-centric world and to make deploying and managing network services as easy as downloading apps onto a smartphone, according to officials.

The "network has grown obsolete and brittle as enterprises have moved to digital services, cloud and hybrid networks," Paul O'Farrell, senior vice president and general manager of Riverbed's SteelConnect, SteelHead and SteelFusion business units, wrote in a post on the company blog. "The underlying networking infrastructure—which is hardware-bound, router-heavy and hard-coded—hasn't changed in 20 years. SteelConnect is the first and only SD-WAN solution to unify connectivity across the entire network from cloud to data center to edge to mobile device. This tames the complexity of hybrid environments to ensure fast, agile and secure application delivery that improves business performance and reduces costs."

With the growth of such trends as cloud computing, increasing mobility, big data and the Internet of things (IoT), enterprise and service provider networks are under increasing pressure to provide more bandwidth, scalability and agility to meet the rapidly changing needs of digital businesses. Technologies like software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) are bringing such capabilities to networks, and SD-WAN offerings are expanding those to branch office and remote site networks.

It's a fast-growing market. There are as many as two-dozen vendors in the space, from established players like Cisco Systems and pure-play startups like VeloCloud Networks, Talari Networks and CloudGenix to companies like Riverbed and Silver Peak, which are expanding their reach from other parts of the WAN ecosystem.

It's still early for the space, but analysts expect it to grow rapidly. Gartner analysts have said that about 1 percent of enterprises currently are embracing SD-WAN, though that will grow to 30 percent by the end of 2019. IDC analysts in March said they expect the market to grow to more than $6 billion by 2020, up from less than $225 million last year.

"The market is going through one of the largest transformations ever, with organizations moving quickly to adopt more digital and cloud services and hybrid networks," Riverbed CEO Jerry Kennelly said in a statement. "With SteelConnect, we're delivering an application-defined networking solution that leverages Riverbed's application DNA and integrates industry-leading visibility, to provide the agility, simplicity and speed enterprises need to manage today's complex cloud and hybrid architectures."

SteelConnect is part of Riverbed's larger "Project Tiger" initiative, which is aimed at eliminating the need for traditional routers in branch offices and providing cloud-based provisioning and management that will reduce the need for network management skills at remote sites. It also will include a new version of Riverbed's RiOS network operating system that will use NFV to deliver a broad range of Riverbed and third-party applications and services.

SteelConnect pushes forward those ideas, according to officials. The software- and application-defined connectivity across WANs, remote LANs and the cloud—AWS initially, with support for Microsoft's Azure coming later—is delivered via physical, virtual and cloud-based WAN gateways, remote LAN switches and WiFi access points. In addition, the platform lets enterprises use policy-based orchestration to manage networks instead of having to go from box to box using command-line interface (CLI) code. SteelConnect offers a graphical user interface, zero-touch provisioning, and visibility into all users and devices connected to the distributed network through the integration of SteelCentral into the SteelConnect central management console.

SteelConnect includes SteelConnect Manager, a centralized management portal, a line of physical and virtual SteelConnect Gateways for unified connectivity, and SteelConnect LAN switches and WiFi access points.

SteelConnect is available now via the company's early access program, and general availability is planned for the fall.