End to End Monitoring Tames the SDN Beast

In many cases, a Software Defined Network (SDN) can create as many problems as it solves. After all, SDNs can be complex beasts that need constant care and attention. That said, the drive behind adopting SDN technology is skyrocketing. Gartner reports that by the end of 2016, more than 10,000 enterprises will have deployed SDN technology on their networks, a tenfold increase from end-of-year 2014.
Despite the rapid adoption of the technology, many enterprises have encountered failures when trying to transition to the technology. The reasons are numerous, with complexity defined as one of the major reasons for failure. Yet, there is another issue under the subtext of SDN deployment, one that derails the transition from pilot project to deployed technology. That issue can be summed up as unpredictable performance. While SDN networking performance seems to be adequate during the pilot project stage, an actual deployment reveals issues that directly impact the end user. In other words, many SDN deployments are derailed by end user experiences.
Detecting and understanding those performance issues are currently a major challenge for those working with SDN technologies, throw WAN connectivity and application servers into the mix, and troubleshooting performance issues becomes an impossibility.
Several vendors are attempting to address that problem with optimization appliances, which can improve performance and solve some of the performance problems. However, to truly deal with performance issues, one needs more that optimization, they also need visibility in the form of end to end monitoring. Many vendors have focused their WAN optimization solutions on the WAN to LAN to WAN ideology, making sure that the networks are able to communicate effectively. However, it is often what happens at the endpoint is what really defines success.
In other words, your WAN and SDN can be the fastest in the world, but if that performance doesn’t translate to the applications and the endpoints accessing them, then your SDN deployment may be classified as a failure.
Something Nik Koutsoukos, VP of Product Marketing at Riverbed has become keenly aware of. In an interview with GigaOM, Koustsoukos said “performance is often judged by how the end user is impacted, something that is really evident when the endpoints are running virtual desktops that are hosted on the corporate network.”
Koustsoukos added “To address performance issues, it is critical to be able to understand what is happening on the endpoint and the related applications, the only way to do that is to have end to end visibility.”
With that in mind, Riverbed has acquired Aternity, a company that specializes in end user experience monitoring. Koustsoukos said “Aternity brings with it the ability to analyze end to end application performance and how availability, latency, execution and quality are perceived by the end user.”  Koustsoukos further said “By incorporating Aternity’s features into Riverbed SteelCentral, administrators will have complete visibility in an enterprise’s application delivery ecosystem, a capability that will be sure to ease troubleshooting and enhance performance.”
For those looking to optimize WAN connectivity, deliver networking via SDNs, and improve the end user experience, Riverbed seems to have hit the nail on the head. One can only hope that the integration of such diverse capabilities will ultimately move SDN further ahead, while resolving the annoying performance issues that hamper end user productivity.