A few years back, we as an industry realized that it would be safer, more economical, and more resilient if we reworked the models we use to provide resources. We decided that rather than sending each field agent out with a laptop, it would be far wiser to keep the data and their workstation in the data center, and provide them a way to access it. Initially, a remotely accessible terminal server bridged the gap. Then when VDI was finally fully baked, we started sending users out with nothing but a client to connect back to their real data. Why was this a good idea?
- Data security – if an endpoint device is lost or stolen, there is no valuable information on the device itself. Data remains secure in the data center.
- Recovery time – if an endpoint device fails, all company data and all the files and programs that allow that user to do their job remain safe and sound in the data center. We issue a new endpoint, and they’re right back to work.
- Efficiency/performance – the economics of placing a high performing desktop in front of every user can be a challenge. For instance if we want storage to be fast and reliable, we could put a RAID 10 array in every desktop. Brilliant, right? By keeping desktops in the data center, we utilize enterprise storage to serve end-user devices. They get performance and reliability they could never expect out of a laptop.
As innovators and proponents of creativity, something we must do as an industry is take brilliant solutions to one problem and see if they can be applied to any other outstanding problems. What I’m going to review below does just that. The combination of two brilliant solutions (WAN optimization and data center centralization) are combined to create VDI-like efficiency and performance for your branch office infrastructure.
Riverbed, a big name in data center WAN optimization, has taken things a step further and created a way to leverage home office enterprise-class data center resources in your branch offices. In effect, this allows for many of the same benefits of VDI: storage performance, backup, and resiliency that would be cost-prohibitive in a ROBO setting. Sensitive company data in a physically protected data center versus a broom closet. And near instant recovery when hardware fails.
The SteelFusion model essentially looks like what you would expect from a traditional WAN accelerator (shocker, right?). What’s special about it is that it is more all-encompassing. It is a hyper-converged appliance that not only does all the optimization, but runs the workload as well!
How Does It Work?
The SteelFusion model uses two components to converge your branch offices with your data center:
- SteelFusion Edge: A converged appliance that integrates server, storage, network, and virtualization to run local branch apps, eliminating your need for additional branch infrastructure
- SteelFusion Core: A storage delivery controller in the datacenter that interfaces with your storage area network (SAN). This projects centralized data out to branches, eliminates branch backups, and provides instant provisioning and recovery of branch services.
I was slightly skeptical about the use case at first, but after talking through some of the details, I think this is a really cool product with a lot of promise. It’s not brand new – this product previously existed back in 2012 as “Granite” so it has had time to mature. I still don’t quite understand how vMotion/DRS works when the datastores are local to each appliance. That’s something I still need to clarify. All in all, I’m excited to start talking to some potential customers about this!