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Riverbed, an American IT company that develops products to improve application performance across wide area networks (WANs), recently commissioned a study surveying 1,000 IT decision makers globally to explore the impact legacy and next-generation networks have on cloud adoption and digital transformation. Telecom Review discussed the findings with Charbel Khniesser, Riverbed's Regional Presales Director for Middle East, Turkey and North Africa.

Can you discuss some of the major findings from Riverbed's 'Future of Networking Global Survey 2017'?
Riverbed has run a worldwide survey about the future of networking to understand how things are moving. According to the survey, 98 percent of respondents believe that SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networks) are essential for building next-generation networks to help them manage cloud and hybrid networks. Respondents believe that SD-WAN will enable increased agility and also generate more revenue if they start deploying SD-WAN.

I agree with the respondents, especially the fact that 93 percent of them said legacy networks today impact their business at least once a month. The solution to this is SD-WAN - we need to be building networks that are resilient - but they shouldn't only be resilient in that they can fix problems - they need to be agile to be able to increase productivity. We believe legacy networks need to change and evolve to become much more software-defined.

One of the main outcomes of the report was that legacy network infrastructure will have difficulty keeping pace with rapidly evolving digital demands. Can you expand on this?
You need to look at the barriers preventing digital transformation today. When we were conducting our survey, we determined that the barriers stopping digitization today include operational efficiency, as well as lack of application performance, and also poor understanding of user experience.

Take the cloud for example. This is a fundamental part of today's digital enterprise yet 58 percent of our respondents reported cloud-related network issues specifically caused by their legacy infrastructure a few times a month or more, while 93 percent said it impacts their business at least monthly. Riverbed can help with this using our application acceleration techniques to enhance application performance and visibility, and ultimately, the digital experience for end users.

In what ways does Riverbed contribute to making it easier for IT companies to keep pace with digital transformation?
We have noticed that many people believe that adopting a new technology only entails purchasing and implementing a solution. This is a big misconception that C-level executives have today as they need to understand that bringing a new technology on board doesn't mean simply deploying it. It should be integrated with the main pillars of the organization which is the people, the processes they have, the tools, and the governance.

I believe it's important for people to truly understand what it means to bring new technologies on board. This is what we do at Riverbed - with the application performance platform that we offer to our customers, we don't simply deploy the product. We assess an organization's processes and we try to integrate new technology into their ecosystem and enable their digital transformation strategy.

What is Riverbed's relationship with Microsoft?
98 percent of the respondents in our survey believe that SD-WAN is critical to helping manage cloud or hybrid networks. Microsoft is shifting its model from simply being a license-based selling company to being a cloud service provider with Microsoft Azure (enterprise grade cloud computing platform), Microsoft Office 365 and all the SaaS-based applications they now have. This is how the model is shifting.

But this is also where problems can occur. How reliable is application performance and how fast will they be when they're hosted on the cloud? Another concern is how agile networks are to build hybrid networks - do we have the capabilities and the flexibility? Those are not easy issues to tackle, and this is where Riverbed comes in to assist.

Our application acceleration solution is hosted at Azure and it can accelerate SaaS-based applications to make sure that access is both extremely fast and reliable. We also provide organizations with the ability to install our application performance management solution on the cloud, providing the same visibility and control they would have if they were still managing their own data center but hosted at Microsoft.

What are some of the barriers stopping companies from updating their legacy network architecture, and how would you encourage them to change?
If you look at the last ten years till now, applications have become very advanced. If you look at any application or any system it will have a virtualized environment. However, people are still using rigid boxes, routers and switches and they spend a lot of time doing network configuration. Applications have become very advanced while we are still using legacy networks. This is where ease of management becomes a problem to manage such systems - they have no scalability and no agility. We need to build application-aware networks.

We shouldn't be simply routing by IP - we should start routing by applications and by their priority to business services. These are the barriers that Riverbed helps customers solve. We make routing decisions from a network perspective and from the application layer.

Can you discuss the importance of SD-WAN and how it can change the game in terms of digital transformation? 
SD-WAN is an enabler that will help you transform your business. I believe digitization has always been there, but we're simply trying to manage the economy from a different perspective. For years we have been embracing digital technologies, but we are now taking a quantum leap forward with the technology that's available today. The benefits of SD-WAN include reducing costs, increasing productivity, and increasing efficiency, and all this ultimately allows for an organization to be more agile. Legacy networks cannot offer these things.

In this region, there has been a 48 percent increase in IoT devices since last year, and this is how the trend is moving. SD-WAN helps you adopt more IoT technologies - it's a way of leveraging the internet and removing barriers and thus become much more business-centric.

Finally, can you tell us about Riverbed's recently announced partnership with Huawei to accelerate digital transformation initiatives?
We have been working with Huawei very closely, just as we have with AWS and Microsoft. We have been working closely on their Cloud Enterprise Private Network (CloudEPN). At Huawei we have our application acceleration platform that will help CloudEPN customers get the same application acceleration technique and the ability to access their applications on Huawei cloud as if it were deployed at their data center. This eliminates the issue of distance from a networking perspective. It's fast, reliable, and secure, and we ensure user productivity.

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