Riverbed split its wide-area network (WAN) acceleration Steelhead product into two new models, the Steelhead CX and EX. The CX is targeted at customers who want pure WAN optimization, while the EX appliance works in tandem with Riverbed Granite to consolidate branch servers and local storage into the data center.
The Granite appliance is the central piece of what Riverbed is calling its edge virtual server infrastructure (Edge-VSI). The Edge-VSI architecture focuses on reducing the number of servers with local storage in branch offices and eliminating backups on the edge. Riverbed compares VSI to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), but for servers instead of desktops.
Granite is an iSCSI-based appliance sold either as hardware or a virtual appliance. The hardware appliance has up to 4 TBs of single-level cell (SLC) solid-state storage. Customers would need a Granite Core device in the data center and another Granite device in remote offices -- either as a standalone product or as a software module on a Steelhead EX.
The Granite appliance accelerates block-level performance across the WAN. It presents itself as an iSCSI target to applications, and uses predictive algorithms to determine what blocks to deliver to the remote office from the data center in a non-sequential order.
Riverbed Granite is best suited for write-intensive applications with workloads that have low data redundancy, and custom applications that use uncommon protocols such as applications that use Advanced Function Printing (AFP) to convert Apple traffic to Windows.
“It uses predictive algorithms to read the contents of the blocks and makes an intelligent guess of what to pre-fetch,” said John Martin, Riverbed’s vice president of product management.
Granite currently supports Dell EqualLogic, EMC and NetApp storage arrays, and Riverbed plans to add support for more arrays.
The Steelhead EX and CX devices both use the Riverbed Optimization System (RiOS). EX boxes contain more memory and storage than CX appliances, and Riverbed’s Virtual Services Platform (VSP) -- previously known as Riverbed Services Platform (RSP) -- runs on EX but not on CX. VSP lets customers run services such as printing, domain name system (DNS), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and file services at local offices without physical servers.
Riverbed customer GeoEngineers Inc., based in Seattle, plans to eliminate a file server in its Redmond, Wash., branch office after completing its testing phase of the new Granite and Steelhead EX. The Granite Core appliance is mounted in front of a Dell EqualLogic storage array in the main data center in Lynnwood, Wash., and sends block-based data via a Microsoft iSCSI initiator over the WAN to the Redmond branch office.
“We configured a virtual machine on the Steelhead EX and through the Granite appliance created a LUN on our EqualLogic array,” said Mitchel Weinberger, information technology manager at GeoEngineers. “We just create shares and to the user it appears they're accessing the data from a file server in the branch office. In our testing, the performance is the same as if there's a file server in the office. We're actually accelerating iSCSI over the WAN.”
GeoEngineers plans to decommission the file server so that backups will be eliminated from the branch office and done in the data center instead. “Now I don’t have to back up across the WAN,” Weinberger said.