Insight by Swish and Riverbed

To modernize IT, agencies should start with their networks

The wide area network, or WAN, has been a foundational block of enterprise computing ever since the first 6-bit facility connected airports in the 1960s. Today many federal agencies rely on WAN architectures far removed from what they might have had decades ago, but that may not be fully suited to the requirements of today.

For a look at where federal WANs are headed, or should be, Federal News Network spoke with two companies that are leading the way. Riverbed Technologies and its implementation partner SwishData supplied experts in why the software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN, is best suited to environments that include agency-owned data centers and commercial clouds, lots of mobile and internet-of-things end points, and the need to incorporate the emerging Trusted Internet Connection architecture from the Homeland Security Department.

Panelists are Sean Applegate, the chief technology officer at SwishData, and Marlin McFate, the public sector chief technology officer at Riverbed Technologies. We explored the typical federal WAN and the ideal to-be state; benefits of SD-WANs for cybersecurity, analytics, performance and a better employee user experience.

Beyond that, SD-WANs, panelists said, can enable advanced application acceleration. That can be particularly useful when large numbers of people are working remotely. SD-WANs redefine the network away from a packet-centric phenomenon to an application-centric one. And isn’t the purpose of networks to carry application logic and data?

Above all, said McFate, and SD-WAN can uncomplicated networks that have grown increasingly complicated. By rendering the network in software, instances can be created and retired easily. Deployment and management requires fewer people and physical resources, freeing up both people and hardware investments for redeployment on modernization, digital services and cloud deployment.

By beginning modernization with the network, he said, subsequent efforts for cloud adoption, application virtualization, and software-as-a-service will go more smoothly and with greater agility.

State of Federal Networks

The straightforward networking of the past has turned into a spider web. Using traditional network technologies ends up creating a fragile [state] – meaning very small changes in one area can create large, unforeseen problems in other areas.

Benefits of Software Defined Networks

In SD-WANs, there are a broad variance of capabilities. For federal networks you can integrate quality of path and quality of service. You can also integrate advanced security policies like next-gen firewall intrusion prevention system capabilities.

The Emerging TIC Architecture and SDN

When it comes to modernization as a whole, the limiting factor is your network. You need to look into SD-WAN and TIC 3.0 first. Modernization of the network is the first step. [Otherwise] you’re going to find many of the things you have already done would have been much simpler if you had addressed the fact that you are working on a traditional network first.

Listen to the full show: