Riverbed Granite: Centralized Data Served Fast To The Edge

Riverbed Technology is looking to shake up how businesses manage and distribute data over WANs with its new Granite technology, which consolidates edge applications, servers and storage to the data center while making data available to remote users as if it were local.

Granite features a core physical or virtual appliance in the data center connected to a service running on Riverbed's Steelhead EX WAN optimization appliance to give users at the edge of the enterprise the feeling of working locally across thousands of miles, said Miles Kelly, Riverbed senior director of product marketing.

"Granite grabs the data from the data center's Windows servers, aggregates it, and then presents it to edge devices where it is treated as if it were local data," Kelly said. "IT loves it. Data is managed at the data center, but users don't know it."

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Granite is definitely a disruptive technology, one that can cut the cost of managing distributed environments by 50 percent over three years, Kelly said. "For the first time, it allows organizations to decouple the storage from the compute," he said.

Riverbed Granite consists of two primary parts.

One of those parts, Granite Core, is a physical or virtual server sitting in a data center that sweeps all the data on Windows servers and stores them on reliable storage arrays from companies such as EMC, NetApp and Dell EqualLogic, where it is managed centrally. Arrays from those three vendors are already certified with Granite, but in actuality, any arrays will work, Kelly said.

The other part is Granite Edge, a service that runs on a Riverbed Steelhead EX WAN optimization appliance in branch offices. Granite Edge also can be purchased as a stand-alone appliance.

When combined, Granite Core serves data from the data center to servers in remote offices via Granite Edge with high enough performance that users don't realize they are working with data located up to thousands of miles away, Kelly said.

The result is that the amount of data a company manages is cut significantly by bringing it to a centrally managed location, eliminating multiple copies of data at the edge, Kelly said. Kelly, quoting data from research firm Forrester Research, said that more than 50 percent of an enterprise's data typically sits at the edge, leading to "data creep."

NEXT: Getting Rid Of That 'Data Creep'

Data creep exists for several reasons and prevents customers from fully utilizing the performance provided by WAN optimization technology such as Riverbed's Steelhead appliances, said Kelly, adding that this is the first opportunity companies have to eliminate it.

Customers are looking for technology that can help solve issues related to managing data at the edge, said David Hekimian, CTO of Trace 3, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider that worked with Riverbed to develop Granite.

Customers who take advantage of Steelhead appliances to run VMware virtualized servers in remote locations instead of physical servers still run into the issue of managing the storage attached to those virtual machines, which can be solved with Granite, he said.

"One great end-user case for Granite is VDI," he said. "Users can connect to their data via Granite Edge, but that data remains stored in the central location."

Trace 3 already has implemented a cloud infrastructure based on Riverbed Granite, Hekimian said. That infrastructure consists of Cisco UCS servers and networking, NetApp storage, and Granite Core sitting in the switch data center in Las Vegas.

Customers deploy Granite Edge to connect them to Granite Core, which allows them to grow their remote infrastructures as needed while getting high availability, redundancy and scalability, he said.

"Customers can try it for 30 days by putting Granite Edge in a remote location without the need to deploy a bunch of hardware in the data center," he said. "And Riverbed doesn't need to deploy all that hardware for a proof-of-concept. This lets us prove the solution with a minimal cost."

With Trace 3's Riverbed Granite cloud, customers have time to evaluate the architecture, Hekimian said.

"We're taking a lot of paradigms and shifting them all at once," he said. "We're saying,'Let's not do this too quickly.' We'll let customers see how long it takes to boot a virtual machine over a WAN."