Riverbed Rebrands Granite, Eyes Greater Converged Infrastructure Play

Riverbed Technology this week unveiled an updated and rebranded version of its Granite converged infrastructure technology that it said will help it capitalize on the "next frontier" of the converged infrastructure market: the branch.

The new offering, called SteelFusion 3.0, consolidates branch servers, storage, networking, WAN optimization and virtualization infrastructure into a single solution, creating an environment, Riverbed said, in which branch data is hosted and managed in a centralized data center but, from an end user's perspective, still behaves as if it's locally hosted.

"It's there to deliver local performance," said Eric Carter, director of SteelFusion product marketing at Riverbed. "What makes SteelFusion different from other solutions is its ability to pull data and even the virtual machines themselves so that they are managed centrally, but are being used out in that branch as if they were still local."

[Related: Riverbed: New Partner Program Driving 'Fundamental Shift' In Channel Engagement ]

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That "local" feel, which translates into higher performance and increased reliability, is made possible by the fact that SteelFusion, like Granite, features a core appliance in the data center and an edge appliance in the branch or remote office, according to Carter. The idea, he said, is that the core appliance serves up data from the data center to servers in the branch via the edge device with high enough performance that users don't realize they are working with data located up to thousands of miles away.

From a rebranding perspective, Carter said the new SteelFusion brand is meant to position the product as a full, converged infrastructure stack, rather than a predominantly storage-focused platform, as was the case with Granite. Partners, so far, seem to be applauding the change.

"I think branding carries a lot of weight because, from a positioning perspective, [selling Granite] could be a challenge. We were talking to networking people traditionally but with Granite you had to engage storage people and server people," said Nathan Holman, vice president of solutions at Syscom Technologies, a Marietta, Ga.-based solution provider and Riverbed partner. "The new 'converged infrastructure in the branch' story really hasn't been told. The fact that SteelFusion 3.0 has additional features and functionality to get it more mainstream… that's key for us," he said.

SteelFusion 3.0 -- which is the next iteration of Riverbed's technology after Granite 2.6 -- is comprised of two primary parts. The first is a new core data center appliance, called SteelFusion Core 3000, that Riverbed said has three times the capacity of its prior-generation Granite core appliance.

The second piece is the new SteelFusion Edge 1360P alliance for the branch, which Riverbed said offers six times the input/output speed of prior-generation Granite edge devices, making it better suited to handle data-intensive workloads such as VDI.

Other new features of SteelFusion 3.0 include a branch recovery agent for streaming recently accessed data back to the branch when recovering Windows VMs, along with tighter integration with NetApp and EMC storage arrays.

Carter said Riverbed views the branch as the "next frontier" of converged infrastructure, helping businesses significantly cut down on infrastructure management and other costs associated with having multiple remote office locations.

Carter, citing data from research firm IDC, said businesses spend more than $4 billion on remote office infrastructure and maintenance each year, creating a huge opportunity for converged infrastructure technology that spans remote and branch offices.

"The [branch] is the next place that can really benefit from converged infrastructure, in the sense we can bring a tightly integrated, easy-to-manage platform into that branch location and ease what is currently a pain point for IT departments," Carter said.

ROI for SteelFusion customers, Carter said, includes speeding up provisioning times by up to 30 percent and recovery times by up to 96 percent.

Riverbed said the new SteelFusion appliances will be available in May.