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Riverbed retools Granite storage in converged infrastructure play

Riverbed combines storage, WAN optimization, virtualization and processing into a single branch office appliance.

Riverbed Technology retooled and rebranded its Granite storage and branch office platform, unveiling a new appliance that combines storage, wide area network (WAN) optimization, virtualization and other services into a single device.

I wanted things centralized; I don't want staff and I don't want a lot of infrastructure in our branch offices.

Mike Rinkin,
senior associate and director of IT, Mazzetti Inc.

The platform, now called SteelFusion 3.0, eliminates the need for branch offices to earmark separate servers and systems for distinct operations like storage and compute, thus permitting organizations to centralize those functions in their data centers, Riverbed claims. SteelFusion, which will be available in May, has two components: SteelFusion Edge 1360P -- either a 1RU or 2RU branch appliance -- and SteelFusion Core 3000, installed at the data center. Each Core can manage up to 150 Edge devices.

"For years organizations have been trying to figure out ways to consolidate their infrastructure," said Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Bob Laliberte. "SteelFusion… is enabling companies to leave their apps [at the branch offices] while bringing all the data back to the data center. The compute function remains out in the field, and the image of the application resides out there as well," thus allowing staffers to continue working in the event of a system disruption. With enterprises spending as much as $10,000 per server each year for maintenance and support, "There is clearly a trend where organizations want to limit their infrastructure, and the simpler and more standardized it is, the better," Laliberte said.

In addition to placing SteelHead WAN optimization, processing and storage features into SteelFusion, the company beefed up the platform with VMware's vSphere hypervisor, said Eric Carter, Riverbed's director of product marketing.

Engineering firm wants to consolidate operations at home office

Mike Rinken, senior associate and director of IT at Denver-based engineering and construction management firm Mazzetti Inc., said that SteelFusion is funneling mission-critical modeling and project management software across 10 U.S. offices. "I wanted things centralized; I don't want staff and I don't want a lot of infrastructure in our branch offices. We were looking at putting more storage arrays in our offices and upgrading our [application] servers, but when we realized we could put storage in Denver and SteelFusion everywhere else it just made sense."

Mazzetti uses a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network from Windstream to connect its offices. The SteelFusion appliances are easy to connect to the MPLS links and are easy to activate, Rinken said, which means that he doesn't have to send IT staff to remote offices to set up the devices.

Streamlined retrieval engine lets offices work when WAN is down

Riverbed also wrote a new data retrieval and management application, BlockStream, which lets branch offices continue to work on documents and files, even when the WAN is down. The software allows employees to work with a virtual machine image in the event of a WAN failure, and once the network is re-established, all of the critical data is re-synched, Carter said.

Finally, the company quadrupled the storage capacity over older Granite Edge devices, to 1.6 TB, and almost tripled the capacity of Core, to 100 TB. It also updated support for NetApp cluster mode and EMC VNX2 snapshots to permit backup consolidation with those vendors' offerings.

"There really is a lot of equipment at the branch office that needs to be there, but it's getting more difficult to support," Carter said. "We see the branch as the next frontier in converged infrastructure… While the branch wants local performance, it doesn't have to have the data reside there, so if we can bring it back to the data center, let's do that. It's simple. I don't have to keep my application server separate from my storage [and] separate from my router. It's not four devices any longer; now it's one."

Pricing for SteelFusion Core will begin at $7,995 and for SteelFusion Edge, $8,495.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Chuck Moozakis, site editor, or follow him on Twitter: ChuckmTT.

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Do you believe converged infrastructure platforms are now viable alternatives for your branch offices?