Riverbed Gets Cloudy

While cloud applications and WAN (Wide Area Network if I have to spell it out) acceleration seem like they would go together like Chicken and Waffles running a WAN acceleration appliance, even a virtual one, on your favorite cloud provider's platform would mean you had to keep a VM up, running and ticking off per hour charges all the time. If your cloud application was sending data to a storage provider like Iron Mountain or Nirvanix you wouldn't even have that option. Now Riverbed's Cloud Stee

Howard Marks

November 12, 2010

3 Min Read
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While cloud applications and WAN acceleration seem like they would go together like Chicken and Waffles. Running a WAN acceleration appliance, even a virtual one, on your favorite cloud provider's platform would mean you had to keep a VM up, running and ticking off per hour charges all the time.  If your cloud application was sending data to a storage provider like Iron Mountain or Nirvanix you wouldn't even have that option.

Rather than running as a VM in a cloud server Riverbed's new Cloud Steelhead runs as part of the Amazon EC2 or Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) service provisioned for a fee of around $250/mo. Users can connect Steelhead appliances at their locations or even the Mobile Steelhead application on their laptops to a Cloud Steelhead instance that connects to their servers in the cloud.  Steelhead Discovery Agents act as connection brokers so administrators don't have to keep track of where in the cloud their servers, or the Cloud Steelhead is located. The whole shebang is managed through a web portal.  

As I tried to explain to those of you that read too much science fiction in a previous blog post the relationship between distance and latency is here to stay.  For many organizations Riverbed's Steelhead appliances have eased the pain latency and low bandwidth caused applications that weren't designed by WAN experts, that is, nearly all of applications you use.  Steelhead uses compression, data deduplication, caching, protocol spoofing (including TCP) and general magicks to boost application performance.  The net result is to squeeze data to a smaller footprint and make better use of available bandwidth by allowing more data to be in flight and reducing chattyness.

While Cloud Steelhead is pretty cool, as a storage guy I spent more time at Riverbed's announcement event looking at their Whitewater storage appliance.  Whitewater, which is completely unrelated to the Whitewater Development Corp. or Bill Clinton, acts as a gateway and accelerator to cloud storage providers for backup applications.  

By caching, deduplicating and encrypting data independently of both the backup application and the cloud provider Whitewater acts as an enabler for disk to disk to cloud backup.  While backup apps like Backup Exec and Commvault Simpana have supported both deduplication and cloud storage for a while the combination can put a serious strain on the media server.Riverbed is selling Whitewater as a virtual appliance or as physical appliances with 8 or 16TB of internal disk for cache. Each appliance presents a CIFS/NFS (Common Internet File System/Network File System) interface to the backup application.

The first release of Whitewater supports AT&T Synaptic Storage or Amazon S3 but Riverbed promises to expand to other cloud storage providers, including sending backup data to multiple providers in the future.

Personally I wonder why Riverbed is limiting Whitewater to backup data. Since it has a NAS front end they could also use it for archival data from applications like Enterprise Vault or even as Nasuni has pitch it as a general purpose file server.   

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at: http://www.deepstorage.net/NEW/GBoS

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