Includes Backup/Recovery, Archiving, DPM, VTL, CDP, Data De-duplication, DRM.
Data is the lifeblood of an enterprise. And yet data has been protected in essentially the same fashion over the past two decades, i.e. by backing it up to tape and sending the tapes offsite. This method alone is no longer adequate and a spade of new technologies has become available in the last five years. These new technologies are already transforming the way data is protected, how long it is kept online, how it is archived. Recovery Management has emerged as a new discipline focused on recovering data rather than copying data. The new compliance requirements are essentially requiring companies of all sizes to upgrade their data protection infrastructures or be subject to huge fines. The level of innovation in this space is torrid. Taneja Group covers this space from end to end and has defined many of the new categories that now are considered the norm. The analysts that cover this space have deep industry backgrounds in developing and marketing these technologies.
Companies with significant non-data center and often widely distributed IT infrastructure requirements are faced with many challenges. It can be difficult enough to manage tens or hundreds if not thousands of remote or branch office locations, but many of these can also be located in dirty or dangerous environments that are simply not suited for standard data center infrastructure. It is also hard if not impossible to forward deploy the necessary IT experience to manage any locally placed resources. The key challenge then, and one that can be competitively differentiating on cost alone, is to simplify branch IT as much as possible while supporting branch business.
Converged solutions have become widely popular in the data center, particularly in virtualized environments. By tightly integrating multiple functionalities into one package, there are fewer separate moving parts for IT to manage while at the same time optimizing capabilities based on tightly intimately integrating components. IT becomes more efficient and in many ways gains more control over the whole environment. In addition to obviously increasing IT simplicity there are many other cascading benefits. The converged infrastructure can perform better, is more resilient and available, and offers better security than separately assembled silos of components. And a big benefit is a drastically lowered TCO.
Yet for a number of reasons, data center convergence approaches haven’t translated as usefully to beneficial convergence in the branch. No matter how tightly integrated a “branch in a box” is, if it’s just an assemblage of the usual storage, server, and networking silo components it will still suffer from traditional branch infrastructure challenges – second-class performance, low reliability, high OPEX, and difficult to protect and recover. Branches have unique needs and data center infrastructure, converged or otherwise, isn’t designed to meet those needs. This is where Riverbed has pioneered a truly innovative converged infrastructure designed explicitly for the branch which provides simplified deployment and provisioning, resiliency in the face of network issues, improved protection and recovery from the central data center, optimization and acceleration for remote performance, and a greatly lowered OPEX.
In this paper we will review Riverbed’s SteelFusion (formerly known as Granite) branch converged infrastructure solution, and see how it marries together multiple technical advances including WAN optimization, stateless compute, and “projected” datacenter storage to solve those branch challenges and bring the benefits of convergence out to branch IT. We’ll see how SteelFusion is not only fulfilling the promise of a converged “branch” infrastructure that supports distributed IT, but also accelerates the business based on it.
The branch office has long been a critical dilemma for the IT organization. Branch offices for many organizations are a critical point of productivity and revenue generation, yet the branch has always come with a tremendous amount of operational overhead and risk. Worse yet, challenges are often exacerbated because the branch office too often looks like a carryover of outdated IT practices.
More often than not, the branch office is still a highly manual, human-effort-driven administration exercise. Physical equipment too often sits at a remote physical office, and requires significant human management and intervention for activities like data protection and recovery, or replacement of failed hardware. Given the remote nature of the branch office, such human intervention often comes with significant overhead in the form of telephone support, less than efficient over-the-wire system configuration, equipment build and ship processes, or even significant travel to remote locations. Moreover, in an attempt to avoid issues, the branch office is often over-provisioned with equipment in order to reduce the impact of outages, or is designed in such a way as to be too dependent on across the Wide Area Network (WAN) services that impair user productivity and simply exchange the risk of equipment failure for the risk of WAN outage. But while such practices come with significant operational cost, there’s a subtler cost lurking below the surface – any branch office outage is enmeshed in data consequences. Data protection may be a slower process for the branch office, subjecting the branch to greater risks with equipment failure or disaster, and restoring branch office data and productivity after a disaster can be a long slow process compared to the capabilities of the modern datacenter.
When branch offices are a key part of a business, these practices that are routinely accepted as the standard can make the branch office one of the costliest and riskiest areas of the IT infrastructure. Worse yet, for many enterprises, the branch office has only increased its importance over time, and may generate more revenue and require more responsive and available IT systems than ever before. The branch office clearly requires better agility and efficiency than it receives today.
Riverbed Technologies has long proven their mettle in helping enterprises optimize and better enable connectivity and data sharing for distributed work teams. Over the past decade, Riverbed has come to dominate the market for WAN optimization technologies that compress data and optimize the connection between branch or remote offices and the datacenter. But Riverbed rose to this position of dominance because their SteelHead appliances do far more than just optimize a connection – Riverbed’s dominance of this market sprung from deep collaboration and interaction optimization of CIFS/SMB and other protocols by way of intelligent interception and caching of the right data to make the remote experience feel like a local experience. Moreover, Riverbed SteelHead could do this while making that remote connection effectively stateless, and eliminating the need to protect or manage data in the branch office.
Almost two years ago, Riverbed announced a continuing evolution of their “location independent computing” focus with the introduction of their SteelFusion family of solutions. The vision behind SteelFusion was a focus on delivering far more performance and capability in branch offices, while doing away with the complexity of multiple component parts and scattered data. SteelFusion does this by transforming the branch office into a stateless “projection” of data, applications, and VMs stored in the datacenter. Moreover, SteelFusion does this with a converged solution that combines storage, networking, and compute all in one device – the first comprehensive converged infrastructure solution purpose-built for the branch. This converged offering though, is built on branch office “statelessness” that, as we’ll review, transparently stores data in the datacenter, and allows the business to configure, change, protect, and manage the branch office with enterprise tools, while eradicating the risk associated with traditional branch office infrastructure.
SteelFusion today does this by virtualizing VMware ESXi VMs on a stateless appliance that in essence “projects” data from the datacenter to a remote location, while maintaining localized speed of access and resilient availability that can tolerate even severe network outages. Three innovative technology components that make up Riverbed’s SteelFusion allow it to host virtual machines that access their primary data via the datacenter, from where it is cached on the SteelFusion appliance while maintaining a highly efficient but near synchronous connection back to the datacenter storage. In turn, SteelFusion makes it possible to run many local applications in a rich, complex branch office while requiring no other servers or devices. Riverbed promises that SteelFusion’s architecture can tolerate outages, but synchronize data so effectively that it will operate as a stateless appliance, enabling branch data to be completely protected by datacenter synchronization and backup, with more up to date protection and faster recovery regardless of whether there’s a loss of a single file, or the loss of an entire system. In short, this is a promise to comprehensively revolutionize the practice of branch office IT.
In January of 2014, Taneja Group took a deeper look at what Riverbed is doing with SteelFusion. While we’ve provided other written assessments on the use case and value of Riverbed SteelFusion, we also wanted to take a hands-on look at how the technology works, and whether in real world use it really delivers management effort reductions, availability improvements, and increased IT capabilities along with consequent improvements in the risks around branch office IT. To do this, we turned to a hands-on lab exercise – what we call a Technology Validation.
What did we find? We found that Riverbed SteelFusion does indeed deliver a transformation of branch office management and capabilities, by fundamentally reducing complexity, injecting a number of powerful capabilities (such as enterprise snapshots and access to all data, copies, and tools in the enterprise) and making the branch office resilient, constantly protected, and instantly recoverable. While the change in capabilities is significant, this also translates into a significant impact on time and effort, and we captured a number of metrics throughout our hands-on look at SteelFusion. For the details, we turn to the full report.
We define online backup as using the cloud to provide users with a highly scalable and elastic repository for their backup data. This is true across all online backup users but enterprise has specific requirements and some risks that consumer and SMB customers do not share. Consumer and SMB – including education and small government agencies – primarily require acceptable backup and restore performance, plus security and compliance reporting in their online backup. The enterprise needs these things too but they are dealing with additional pressures from backing up larger data sets across multiple remote sites and/or storage systems and applications. Here is what to know when you consider cloud backup vendors for your enterprise backup system.
Taneja Group and InfoStor jointly ran a survey asking IT managers about their experience with corporate file sharing. Taneja Group defines corporate file sharing as the ability to share large numbers of files between business users across networks and mobile devices.
File sharing heavily intersects with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the cloud. BYOD is the phenomenon of employees using personal mobile devices for personal and business applications and data access. File sharing as a business usage is closely associated with BYOD as end users seek to easily share files between their own and others’ multiple computing devices.
File sharing is also bound up with cloud usage. File sharing on mobile devices does not strictly require file sharing services using the cloud; basic secure sharing can be done via VPN just as one would email a file or share its pathname over the LAN. However, this solution is less than ideal for file sharing because it is poorly scalable and lacks any file sharing application functionality.
In contrast, most file sharing products use the cloud because the environment is highly scalable and delivers application functionality such as file versioning and locking. Many file sharing products also use the cloud to host a shared file repository, and most integrate with Active Directory and other SAML-based access management applications. Given a huge growth in data files and in mobile access needs, this approach is far superior to simply sending files using VPN connections.
This is no surprise to end users, who happily use file sharing applications like Dropbox to easily share files. Yet not all file sharing applications are created equal and consumer file sharing applications can threaten corporate data security. Vendors are quickly developing business- and enterprise-level file sharing applications in response to valid concerns about file sharing security, scalability, management, usability and compliance.
These are serious questions and should be serious concerns for IT in businesses of any size. However, our survey found that although some respondents have file sharing solutions and policies already in place, many did not. Some respondents have solid short-term plans to do so but others have no plans in place. Why? Taneja Group has observed that when IT denies a need for secure file sharing in a BYOD environment, they usually lack the time, sense of urgency, executive support and/or budget to deal effectively with the problem.
For more on file collaboration/BYOD issues and vendors, download Taneja Group’s File Collaboration Landscape Market Report.
A technology publication that shall go unnamed posted the news last year that Amazon Glacier was a “tape-killing cloud” and that it would “devastate the [tape] industry.”
Not exactly. We do believe that smaller tape implementations are going the way of the dodo bird. Cloud backup is quickly replacing small standalone tape drives and autoloaders for daily backup, and as low-end tape equipment ages IT replaces it with cloud for long-term backup retention.
However, tape housed in mid-sized and enterprise scale libraries are growing strongly in several high-value computing and industry segments. Thus the question for IT becomes not “Should I use tape?” but “When should I invest in tape libraries?”
The Dropboxes of the world are fueling the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) phenomenon. They need to replace consumer-level file collaboration applications with an enterprise scale application and its robust management console. However, while IT may be anxious about BYOD and insecure file sharing it is not usually the most driving need on their full agenda. They need to understand how an EFC solution is the opportunity to solve a very large problem, and why they need to take advantage of the solution now.