Riverbed's New SteelConnect May Give SD-WAN Foothold

May 11, 2016

By Steve Anderson, Contributing Writer

One development that's shaking up a lot of the business world is the growth of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN). Poised for huge growth just by the end of 2019—going from one percent enterprise adoption to 30 percent—companies that can stake a claim in this field now may have a huge advantage later. That led to Riverbed (News - Alert)'s recent introduction of a new SD-WAN system, SteelConnect.

Riverbed SteelConnect provides an unusual approach to networking, one that's likely going to have its biggest impacts in the legacy network routing market. With Riverbed SteelConnect, companies can effectively replace a huge number of manually-configured routers by using a virtual network design. That means easy changes, simple provisioning, and a network that runs just as—if not more—effectively than its predecessors.

SteelConnect represents what's being described as an industry-first effort to bring together network connectivity and application delivery across several platforms at once, including not only remote local area networks (LANs), but also hybrid WANs and even cloud-based systems like Amazon Web Services (AWS). Microsoft (News - Alert) Azure support is set to arrive later this year.  SteelConnect offers all this with a graphical user interface (GUI) that allows users to easily, at a glance, note how the various secure WAN gateways, Wi-Fi access points, and LAN switches all work together in the overall network.

Riverbed's chairman and CEO, Jerry M. Kennelly, commented, “We believe SteelConnect has the potential to disrupt the multi-billion dollar branch office router market and re-define networking as we know it today. 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.”

There's one problem with Riverbed's SteelConnect: the name. A quick search online reveals that SteelConnect is also the name of a line of  mobile device accessories, ranging from the Apple (News - Alert) Watch to the Pebble Steel. That could dilute the brand, especially if anyone starts doing a search for such tools. A more distinctive name might serve to help drive business; looking at Google (News - Alert) search results for SteelConnect puts Riverbed's line about halfway down the page. A product that offers this level of value and power for networks shouldn't have to labor under the disadvantage of a shared name, especially for a product that isn't even in the same market.

Regardless of naming issues, the Riverbed system looks like a powerful one that can deliver on several fronts and improve networking to a degree that most businesses should get a lot of out of it. That should make it a popular buy, and give Riverbed a crucial new beachhead in the expanding SD-WAN market. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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