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“A mobile workforce is the strategic direction of the future”: Riverbed CDO

CNME Deputy Editor Giorgia Guantario secured an exclusive interview with Dante Malagrinò, Chief Development Officer at Riverbed, to discuss the organisation’s new SD-WAN solution, SteelConnect EX, their partnership with Versa Networks and why the mobile workforce represents the future for organisations.

Riverbed enjoyed an eventful year in 2019, confirming its position as the market incumbent for network and applications performance.

In July, the US-based organisation announced the formation of a separate division, Aternity, that would solely focus on Digital Experience Management (DEM), which includes Riverbed’s End User Experience Monitoring (EUEM) and Application Performance Management (APM) solutions.

This decision allowed Riverbed to focus on its flagship Digital Networking business, which saw two major announcements in the partnership with SD-WAN vendor Versa Networks, and the subsequent launch of a new SD-WAN solution, SteelConnect EX.

Dante Malagrinò, Riverbed’s Chief Development Officer, has been one of the leaders behind the changes that have raised the company’s success to new highs.

The charismatic Chief Development Officer, who boasts a venerable career in the IT industry, joined Riverbed in April 2018 as the engineering leader of the Cloud Infrastructure Business Unit (CIBU), and was promoted to his current role earlier last year – since then, he’s been spearheading innovation within the company by focusing on its four core solutions areas.

Dante Malagrinò, Chief Development Officer, Riverbed on mobile workforce and SteelConnect EX
Dante Malagrinò, Chief Development Officer, Riverbed

“Riverbed currently focuses only on network and applications performance across four key areas: WAN Optimisation, which is essentially the ability to compress data and reduce data utilisation of a wide area link, primarily MPLS; Application Acceleration, focusing on providing acceleration services to deploy Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) apps, particularly Office 365; Visibility and Network Performance Management; and finally SD-WAN,” he explained.

Although SD-WAN has been a main focus for Riverbed, Malagrinò was keen to explain that this technology is not the answer to all problems, as many organisations tend to believe.

He continued, “Most organisations start their journeys from SD-WAN, without asking themselves what challenges they’re actually facing. However, CIOs who choose to focus on supporting their applications by hoping to maximise their performance, need to understand that SD-WAN is only one of the components to achieve that – in order to succeed, they need to factor in all of the key areas Riverbed has to offer.”

SteelConnect EX, Riverbed’s latest addition to their SD-WAN portfolio, has been a true reflection of Malagrinò’s innovative ideas.

The enterprise-class and carrier-grade WAN Edge Infrastructure solution was introduced to provide a first-class SD-WAN with security and app acceleration, within the same physical footprint.

“Simplifying networking at the branch is one of the main reasons our customers are choosing SD-WAN. Over the years, branch offices have added more functionalities and devices, such as routers, app acceleration and security devices – having all these separate devices is operationally very expensive and complicated, especially without the necessary IT skillset.

“SteelConnect EX allows customers to deploy one device to run any functionality they need – this could be just SD-WAN; SD-WAN and security; SD-WAN and app acceleration; or all three, depending on the use case they have in mind,” Malagrinò explained.

Moreover, SteelConnect EX vaunts an enterprise-class and carrier-grade routing stack that ensures the solution can seamlessly co-exist and interoperate with legacy networks, while also allowing for the scalability and performance necessary to meet the requirements of complex networks.

The innovative solution was launched shortly after Riverbed announced a Strategic Global OEM Agreement with Versa Networks, a leading vendor in the software-defined networking market.

The partnership, which sees Riverbed leveraging Versa Networks’ enterprise-class secure SD-WAN technology, was “very important” for the organisation, Malagrinò explained.

“Riverbed has had an SD-WAN offering for about four years, our SteelConnect CX – this solution works very well in smaller environments with simpler requirements. However, as we started working with enterprise and government organisations, which usually have more complicated requirements and a legacy installed base of routing that you have to interoperate for a long period of time, we needed a much stronger set of routing features.

The partnership with Versa Networks allowed us to get that full routing stack, among other things, to become fully interoperable with anything customers already have in place. We are thus able to support customers’ routing legacy and enable them to transition to a next-generation future-state in networking at their own pace.”

Discussing future trends in the market, Malagrinò believes the mobile workforce will soon start posing many challenges, as well as opportunities, across all industries. Many businesses have in fact turned to a mobile workforce model to address real estate and flexibility requirements, which in turn has prompted IT organisations, including Riverbed, to come up with new solutions to achieve the same level of security and performance without relying on a physical footprint.

Malagrinò said, “At Riverbed, we have come up with a product called Client Accelerator, a software-only form factor running on users’ mobile device to provide accelerated access to on-prem, IaaS, or SaaS-based applications anywhere they are.

“Adopting a mobile workforce model is not just a tactical need of today, it will be a strategic direction of the future – this trend will increase, and the capabilities of technologies such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will only enhance it. Eventually, I expect we won’t need physical networks anymore. If that were to happen, we will have to shift our intelligence from the network to the client, as they will play a much more significant role, with their laptops or mobile phones acting as end-point networking devices.”

Malagrinò concluded by discussing Riverbed’s plans for the year, which will see the organisation continuing to advocate its four core solutions areas to its customers, as part of a unified platform approach to bring networking and applications together.

“In 2020, we will continue to help customers navigate through all the noise surrounding SD-WAN, as well as continuing to work with companies to deploy SaaS. With our 15 years’ experience in networking, we are able to maximise performance and deal with complexity better than any other organisation in the market.”

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