Riverbed Federal Lead Davis Johnson on Continuous Monitoring Trends & How Agencies Can Understand Their IT Assets

Davis Johnson EMDavis Johnson joined application and network services provider Riverbed Technology in April 2015 as vice president of a U.S. public sector business that works with government agencies that want new tools to manage network performance in their enterprise.

Founded in 2002, San Francisco-headquartered Riverbed is known in the technology sector as the developer of a series of techniques designed to increase data transfer volumes and speeds across wide area networks.

In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Johnson describes Riverbed’s portfolio in the U.S. public sector market and federal trends to watch in areas such as continuous monitoring, telework and how agencies are working to obtain greater knowledge of their information technology assets.

ExecutiveBiz: Describe Riverbed’s federal business and some of its key focus areas.

Davis Johnson: Riverbed is an application performance platform that brings network and application visibility, wide area network optimization and control features to the enterprise. A lot of people are familiar with Riverbed as a company that invented WAN optimization in 2004. It is a business we are still very much involved in.

We are the dominant market share leader in that space. Through acquisition and internal growth we have evolved to become a lot more than just optimizing applications and networks to include network visibility and network control systems.

An integrated applications performance platform includes three things. First, the visibility or the ability to see everything that is running across your network such as the routes the applications take across the network. Second is the ability to optimize the network’s traffic and the path taken by applications as well as to manage the latency. Applications have different degrees of latency depending on efficiency and travel distance. The third aspect of the platform is the control feature or the ability of a single-graphical user interface to manage the complexity and to ensure infrastructures can support the speed of the business.

I have been the vice president for sales and business development for the public sector since January 2015. As the title denotes, my responsibilities include the sales and business development aspects primarily of the federal business. The job also includes the channel aspect of managing a federal secure supply chain for federal customers to buy our products through a discreet federal channel which is separate from Riverbed’s commercial channel.

The last piece is alliances specific to the federal market. We have our own assets dedicated to partnerships with companies like Amazon Web Services, EMC and Microsoft. We have 90 people in the business unit — 25 in sales and business development, 30 system engineers and 10-to-15 in professional services, marketing and support.

ExecutiveBiz: Where does Riverbed seek to complement federal and commercial work?

Davis Johnson: Our penetration in federal is quite deeper than a lot of the verticals that we are going after in the commercial arena. Our market share is currently at 50 percent greater than other companies at large due to some of the applications we made over time. In 2013 we acquired Opnet, a Maryland-based company with a 25-year track record of supporting customers specifically in the Defense Department and federal community.

Riverbed’s federal division leads in a couple of different areas and one of them is the network planning and configuration space. We do a lot more business on the network performance and application performance management space than our commercial counterparts.

The exception would be WAN optimization because the company’s commercial side does a bigger share of its business in WAN optimization, its bread and butter since 2004. The commercial space is leading federal much more aggressively in service provider and cloud strategies for the market. Companies like AT&T are critical partners and customers.

The commercial side of the business is growing faster than the federal piece as it relates to service providers and cloud applications. The federal side has lagged some in the adoption of Microsoft Azure, Google Docs and Amazon Web Services but is catching up quickly.

We are learning from our commercial brethren, trying to adopt their best practices and copying what they’ve succeeded at.

ExecutiveBiz: What areas of continuous monitoring does Riverbed focus on?

Davis Johnson: For a long time, Riverbed has been doing a couple of things critical to continuous monitoring like packet capture and deep packet inspection.

A big part of the portfolio has to do with our Shark appliances which capture packets from the network and allow real-time analytics in the field. That is a pretty common tenet of a continuous monitoring solution but we are also capturing flow data from switches and routers and packing that back to profilers and dashboards.

This is an essential side so that customers can see everything that is growing across the network and look for network anomalies. We are getting a big update in the federal government with cybersecurity programs that are funded by cybersecurity dollars because having a strong visibility suite is a big part of continuous monitoring and cybersecurity strategies in general. It is a big credit market for us.

ExecutiveBiz: How can companies like Riverbed help agencies understand their IT environments more?

Davis Johnson: A big part of agency IT environment has to do with the network. It is still one of the largest stems that any CIO or IT department has to do deal with. We give the government or commercial customer a ton of visibility about where applications are at over the network or where bottlenecks might exist on the network.

When every IT department is trying to or succeeding at delivering application performance, our core capability is helping applications run more effectively and efficiently over the network. Our tools go beyond looking at switches and routers of the network.

We offer click-to-disk visibility so from the time an end user clicks on a browser to the time the request makes it all the way back to the data center or the cloud service provider and returns and responds, all of that is being monitored through probes we put on the networks in the data centers and with agents running on desktops.

The CIO can see the entire IT infrastructure that he is managing and understand how they can run more effectively because it is a visibility tool not only to the network but the entire IT infrastructure that supports applications.

ExecutiveBiz: What steps do you see agencies taking towards secure telework setups?

Davis Johnson: We see a lot of customers evolving beyond traditional telework setups to second- and third-generation environments and we are a big part of that. One of the biggest challenges agencies have with telework is how far workers are away from the data center or cloud service provider affects application performance.

Many traditional methods for personal desktop infrastructure are falling down due to network bandwidth limits or overall latency. Much of our business right now is optimizing virtual desktop infrastructure for federal sites inside and outside the continental U.S.

In order to do a successful virtual desktop, there has to be a system that understands applications running to virtual desktops and optimize the application and make it run over the network more effectively. That is WAN optimization.

A good VTI implementation should include some type of WAN optimization to optimize the applications running through the desktop and potentially “black screen,” the patent technology we bring to the market. It allows you to project storage from the data center to the virtual desktop without actually storing all of the data out of the remote site. It is a much more efficient way to support virtual desktop infrastructure.

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