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Riverbed says it can make virtual WAN overlay a reality

Riverbed says it SteelFusion optimization appliance can be used to provision virtual WAN overlay for "location-independent computing."

Riverbed Technology hopes to extend virtual network overlays across the WAN with its SteelFusion appliances.

SteelFusion, formerly branded Granite, is a converged infrastructure branch appliance that delivers applications and data from permanent storage in data centers to remote locations where it can be cached. SteelFusion can then suck this remote data back to the data center at any time, whether to comply with data protection policies or to enable disaster avoidance.

Steve Riley, technical director for Riverbed's CTO office, envisions a future where SteelFusion can project virtual networks much in the same way it projects applications and data.

"If you are going to put a group of people in a temporary location, not only do you want to project virtual storage and virtual machines, but you also want a virtual network with policies that define access control lists and how services should be chained together," Riley said.

A consultancy might deploy a team of 30 people to a client's office, for instance, where they can receive access to corporate data and applications. In the future, Riley said, the consultancy could connect a SteelFusion appliance to the client's local Internet connection. Riverbed could then project a virtual network that overlays the client's LAN, giving remote employees access to the consultancy's corporate applications, complete with network policies and network services.

To enable this projection of a virtual network over the WAN, Riverbed would integrate with the network virtualization products on the market today, Riley said. He didn't identify which products Riverbed might integrate with, but the company has already integrated other products with VMware NSX, particularly its SteelCentral performance management products.

The potential SteelFusion integration would advance Riverbed's emerging strategy for supporting "location-independent computing."

Riverbed sees location-independent computing as the next step beyond software-defined networking and data centers, according to Rob Whiteley, vice president of product marketing at Riverbed. While SDN and software defined data centers logically separate applications and services from the underlying hardware, location-independent computing physically separates those elements. This advancement allows an enterprise to make the placement of hardware and software a business decision instead of a technical decision, Whiteley said. 

"If you are an Office 365 customer in Australia, you are served out of [Microsoft's] Singapore [data center]. If Microsoft wants to do inbox maintenance, they move that customer to Seattle," explained Whiteley. "We created a technology which intercepts that and forces a move back to Singapore with SteelApp. Or the customer says maybe we shouldn't stop that maintenance. In that case, maybe they want to apply optimization [to the Seattle-based service] instead. This allows the customer to make a business decision."

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