Upcoming Events

Where the Cloud Touches Down: Simplifying Data Center Infrastructure Management

Thursday, July 25, 2013
10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET

In most data centers, DCIM rests on a shaky foundation of manual record keeping and scattered documentation. OpManager replaces data center documentation with a single repository for data, QRCodes for asset tracking, accurate 3D mapping of asset locations, and a configuration management database (CMDB). In this webcast, sponsored by ManageEngine, you will see how a real-world datacenter mapping stored in racktables gets imported into OpManager, which then provides a 3D visualization of where assets actually are. You'll also see how the QR Code generator helps you make the link between real assets and the monitoring world, and how the layered CMDB provides a single point of view for all your configuration data.

Register Now!

A Network Computing Webinar:
SDN First Steps

Thursday, August 8, 2013
11:00 AM PT / 2:00 PM ET

This webinar will help attendees understand the overall concept of SDN and its benefits, describe the different conceptual approaches to SDN, and examine the various technologies, both proprietary and open source, that are emerging. It will also help users decide whether SDN makes sense in their environment, and outline the first steps IT can take for testing SDN technologies.

Register Now!

More Events »

Subscribe to Newsletter

  • Keep up with all of the latest news and analysis on the fast-moving IT industry with Network Computing newsletters.
Sign Up

Six Virtual Appliances Worth a Look

Virtual appliances appear to be all the rage, as the usual set of hardware hawkers look to gain footing in new markets. NetApp, Riverbed, Silver Peak, Cisco, F5 and a raft of others are now offering virtual versions of their previously hardware-only products. In some cases, virtual versions are intended for cloud environments where a hardware footprint is not only not possible but also largely defeats the point of moving to the cloud. In other cases, the idea is to offer a low-cost yet centrally managed option for small, remote sites.

NetApp is the latest entry into the field, with its Data ONTAP Edge product, which was announced in late June and will ship in August. ONTAP Edge runs in VMware ESX virtual machines (where the product is actually designated ONTAP-v, which leads us to suspect other versions are in the offing), and requires that the host have a hardware RAID controller. The software is limited to managing 5 Tbytes, which should be plenty for most small offices, and provides most of the features of NetApp's hardware-based systems running ONTAP 8.1.1.

More Insights


More >>

White Papers

More >>


More >>

NetApp says pricing hasn't been set yet, but it ironically claims the product to be the "best price/performance to meet growing needs." The company's lowest-priced hardware product lists for about $8,000, so we can assume the virtual version will run a good bit less than that. Like most other virtual products, the appeal is that it can be managed right along with the company's physical NetApp appliances and requires no additional hardware at the remote site.

NetApp's virtual appliance is somewhat unique with its special requirements for server hardware--namely, that it sports a RAID controller. Most other virtual appliances have no such requirement--indeed, the bigger use for virtual appliances may be in public cloud environments, where nothing is really known about the underlying hardware.

The Virtual Cloud

Cisco's router in a virtual machine, for example, has little application in remote offices as it would likely be enough running on card in a physical Cisco ISR router. Instead, the cloud services router is intended to be used in the public cloud to terminate a VPN connection and provide other services within the cloud that would normally run on Cisco hardware. It will be a vital part of Cisco's (not-so) Open Network Environment SDK. Other products with unique cloud applications include F5's Big-IP Local Traffic Manager VE. The virtual appliance can be used in the cloud to do load balancing and provide other optimization that physical Big-IP LTM appliances do.

WAN Acceleration

Riverbed was an early entrant to the virtual appliance game, with Virtual Steelhead appliance,s dating back to 2010. But the company hasn't stopped there--it's also virtualized the SAN, with its Granite systems. That product family, announced earlier this year, is known as edge-VSI (virtual server infrastructure). Edge-VSI provides block-level service, whereas the Steelhead appliance provides file-level service.

And there's more virtualization going on at the company: At Interop this year, Riverbed showed its Steelhead Cloud Accelerator. Steelhead cloud was developed with Akamai to provide caching services for certain SaaS applications. So far, the product works with Google Apps, Salesforce.com and Microsoft Office 365.

Other WAN optimization vendors also provide virtual versions of their appliances. One of the more recent is Silver Peak, with its VX and VRX virtual appliances.

Whether you're looking to take advantage of IaaS offerings or just looking to get more functionality in remote offices without adding more hardware, virtual appliances are worth a look.

Art Wittmann is a freelance journalist and writer with 30 years of experience in IT and IT journalism. Wittmann specializes in IT infrastructure, cloud computing and data center issues. Email him at artwittmann@yahoo.com Follow him on twitter @artwittmann

Related Reading

Network Computing encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Network Computing moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing/SPAM. Network Computing further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | Please read our commenting policy.
Vendor Comparisons
Network Computing’s Vendor Comparisons provide extensive details on products and services, including downloadable feature matrices. Our categories include:

Research and Reports

Network Computing: April 2013

TechWeb Careers