Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Enterprise Networking Market Q&A With David Winikoff of Riverbed Technology

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Networking technology enables the exchange of data between and among information systems, and is used by businesses to route critically important data. 

Through networking, users can send files, messages, and other data through e-mail or other communication tools. The information can also be shared via the internet based on what the organization needs.

Datamation interviewed David Winikoff, VP, of Product Management, Alluvio Network Performance Management products at Riverbed Technology, who shared his perspective on the development and growth of the networking market.

For more on Riverbed Technology: Top 10 Enterprise Networking Companies

About David Winikoff

David Winikoff has over two decades of success leading product management teams and as an engineer (both software and hardware) creating offerings for enterprises. Among the innovations, he has helped develop: high-performance storage subsystems, multi-modal unified communications, QoS-based WAN optimization, and sophisticated network performance management tools. He is most known for building next-generation products with economical upgrade paths for existing customers. 

David has led various aspects of Riverbed’s network performance management portfolio for 11 years and has been responsible for the entire portfolio for the past three years. He has focused a broad collection of products into four flagship offerings based on data source: network packets, flows, and device status. During his tenure, Riverbed’s products have greatly increased their scale and performance, while continuing to lead the market in terms of the breadth of data collected and depth of analysis.

In his free time, David is an instructor at the University of California Graduate School of Business, teaching courses related to innovation, entrepreneurship, marketing, and product management.

Interview: Networking Market

How did you first start working in the networking market? 

I started my career as a computer scientist out of MIT, in the voice communication market. I helped pioneer the creation of Unified Communications (phone calls, voice messages, and emails, at the start). This was just as business communication was transitioning from memos and phone calls to voice messages and email. I transitioned to networking just as WAN optimization technologies enabled voice and video to be effectively sent over networks.

What is your favorite thing about working at Riverbed Technology?

It’s working for a company that, at its heart, is about using technology to make complex problems easy. Riverbed didn’t invent WAN optimization, but they dominated the market with a product that was literally install-and-forget-about-it. The product just worked.

What sets Riverbed Technology’s networking approach or solutions apart from the competition?

For our Network Performance Management products, the portfolio that I lead, Riverbed’s edge has always given the greatest depth of insight to expert users. We have the broadest and deepest telemetry for all aspects of network performance on the market. Our latest focus is to leverage that data with Artificial Intelligence so that even non-experts can quickly find and fix performance issues.

The Networking Market

What is one key new networking technology that particularly interests you? 

Not purely for networking, but I think Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are going to enable issues to be resolved almost before people notice an issue. In the world of networks, I look forward to streaming telemetry (hopefully) replacing SNMP polling as a way to gather device status.

What is one new networking technique that teams should implement? 

Combining what we think of as separate disciplines, network performance management (NPM), and application performance management (APM), into coordinated teams. Both sides are working with applications running in computing elements that communicate over networks. I believe treating these as separate disciplines makes progress harder on both sides.

What is one new networking strategy that companies should implement? 

User experience first. We have all sorts of ways to measure how well networks are operating. But, at the end of the day, what truly matters is the performance that the person on the PC, laptop, or mobile phone is experiencing. What better than to measure that directly – as the key metric of performance?

What is the biggest networking mistake you see enterprises making?

Having too many separate tool silos. Sure, every group knows the data they consider most relevant. But what happens when each tool indicates “there’s no problem”? Much better to have a consistent set of collected data – so that you can be sure that issues can’t “slip through the cracks.”

What are some current trends in the networking market that are promising? 

The biggest trend that I see is a “left shift” of skills and tasks. There just aren’t enough networking experts; the people that have those skills have way too many demands on their time.

That’s where AI/ML comes in: it allows some of the approaches that the experts use to be automated and simplified, so more junior people can solve some problems that only experts could fix before.

What are the biggest factors that are driving change in networking?

The biggest factor is clearly the sheer amount of data we all work with. I joke with my kids that I remember when storage capacities were measured in megabytes. Now, 100Gbps links are common; organizations are (or will be) seeing data volumes measured in Petabytes, Zetabytes, and Exabytes. Networks operating at peak performance all the time is not just a convenience; it’s essential.

How has networking changed during your time in the market?

I’ve seen the pendulum swing a few times: all IT happening from data centers; the growth of the PC; client-server architectures; applications moving from the data center to the cloud (and sometimes back again). We’re now in a world where both people and the machines running applications could be anywhere. All of which makes the network that much more important.

Where do you predict the networking market will be 5 or 10 years from now?

Each new advance in network transport (faster wired and wireless technologies) has enabled more computing power for more people. I see that process continuing. Beyond higher-definition movies on huge screens, I’d like to see reliable, high-speed networking around the globe (and in orbit). There should not be “haves” and “have nots” when it comes to networks.

See more: The Network Management Market

Personnel in Networking 

What is one new networking development your team wants professionals to know?

That your future is all about leverage: not just the problems you fix on your own…but helping build the tools that will enable teams to take on the more mundane of the problems you solve.

If you could give one piece of advice to a networking professional at the beginning of their career, what would it be? 

To realize and appreciate that many people may not know what you do…but that the networking profession provides the essential capabilities that keep the world running.

With the shortage of tech talent, how is your team finding and retaining professionals to work in networking?

We’re not actually seeing a challenge in finding talent. The challenge is in figuring out the best ways for teams to work together, across geographies and time zones, to achieve collaborative goals.

For the greatest business impact, what should networking professionals be focusing on most in their roles? 

The same as in any business situation: know who your customers are. For networking professionals, many of these “customers” may work for your own organization. Your success will come from enabling these people to be as productive as they can be.

For more: Networking Careers

Work Life

What is one of your top professional accomplishments?

From the technical side, being a co-inventor of four patents.

What is your favorite part of working in the networking market? 

Meeting with customers and learning all of the creative ways they’re trying to help their customers be more productive.

What is one of your favorite parts of the work week? How does it encourage or inspire you? 

My manager’s staff meetings. I have such a brilliant and creative set of colleagues. Though the biggest inspiration really comes from seeing people find the humor in whatever challenge has just arisen.

Do you have a favorite way to recharge during the workday? 

My family has a three-year-old Labrador retriever. She needs a couple of heavy exercise sessions in the park each day. Some of my most creative ideas have come while I’m throwing a frisbee or tennis ball for her to fetch.

What are your favorite hobbies or ways to spend time outside of work?

I’ve just become the Executive Officer for my sons’ U.S. Naval Sea Cadet unit; the only unit in the country that’s a dedicated musical group. My lifetime highlight was marching with the band down Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC, as part of this past year’s July 4th parade.

For more: Networking Certifications

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