This past April, Riverbed Technology signed a definitive agreement to acquire Wi-Fi solutions provider Xirrus. The acquisition further strengthens Riverbed’s differentiated software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) offering called SteelConnect—the first and only SD-WAN solution to unify management and policy-based orchestration spanning the entire network—LAN/WLAN, WAN, data center and the cloud.

“The SteelConnect offering is unique in that it is the first SD-WAN solution that has extended the power of policy-based orchestration out to the broader reaches of the distributed network,” said Paul O’Farrell, SVP of the Riverbed SteelConnect, SteelHead, and SteelFusion business unit, in a statement.

This type of end-to-end network visibility is increasingly critical for government IT networks. These agency networks are in the process of transitioning to the cloud in an austere budgetary climate. Federal IT leaders are also being asked to make this transition with hardware-centric network architectures that for the most part have not been updated for 20 years or more.

That’s where SD-WAN comes in. One thing almost everyone would agree on is that federal networks cannot achieve the agility and performance potential of the cloud with teams of engineers coding the way to compliance. The time and expense of trying to make fundamental network upgrades device by device, using techniques such as command line interface (CLI) is simply not an agile or cost-effective solution.

What is needed is for software to replace hardware in network orchestration, allowing for the creation of automated IT user classes and “drag and drop” settings for secure VPNs and remote office setup and teardown. SD-WAN can empower the network orchestration and optimization required to meet the objectives of federal IT today.

When upgrading and transitioning their networks, federal IT leaders also need to know to establish a baseline for application performance. Operationally many government IT organizations have gaps in their performance visibility. This is because their IT solutions aren’t integrated and teams aren’t working closely together due to contractual or geographic boundaries.

Without such visibility, moving to the cloud can actually hamper IT performance. First, when agencies move applications for employees to the cloud that means they are geographically farther away from the end user. That means to get work done, employee applications have a lot farther to go. Applications in remote offices have to not only reach across a Wide Area Network (WAN) to get to a data center (where the application used to reside) but also need to access the Internet through the agency Trusted Internet Connection or Cloud Access Point to the cloud hosted application.

Not only does going software-defined address these performance issues, it can also save money.  Going software-defined is easier to administer, and it accommodates the growing demand for managed service offerings and consumption based, pay-as-you-go pricing models, and results in cost-savings. Agencies can deploy and manage network services, applications and branch IT as intuitively as an individual downloads apps onto their phone.

At Affigent we know the team at Riverbed very well, and we’ve collaborated on projects together. Their recent acquisition of Xirrus should make proven SD-WAN technology and best practices more accessible to agencies. And that will make it much easier for federal IT teams to be true GovTransformers.