Branch Converged Infrastructure is the Next Generation of Integrated Systems



Gartner recently released its first ever Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems, also referred to as converged infrastructure.

Gartner opens the report citing ‘The integrated system market is growing at 50% or more per year, creating an unusual mix of major vendors and startups to consider.’

We completely agree.

That’s why we’re so excited to be in this market. Riverbed’s SteelFusion is an integrated system. In this MQ, Gartner states that: ‘Integrated systems must have servers, storage, network and a management software layer associated with them. Software-only integrated systems do not qualify at this time, as the customer or the integrator would have to layer the software on top of third-party hardware, and integrate and support the offering.’ Gartner then elaborates by defining four flavors of integrated systems: integrated stack systems (ISS), integrated infrastructure systems (IIS), integrated reference architectures, and fabric-based computing (FBC). I recommend reading the MQ for detailed explanations of each

In this vernacular, Riverbed’s SteelFusion is an integrated infrastructure system, or IIS. We’ve combined server, storage, network, management, and a virtualization platform into a single appliance. The difference? SteelFusion is purpose built for branch offices.

If I had to critique Gartner’s MQ in one area, it would be that they focused too much on the data center. Clearly, the data center is the biggest source of IT spend and, let’s be honest, inefficiency. It makes sense that first two generations of integrated systems are designed to tackle the needs of the data center.

SteelFusion is the third generation of integrated systems. It’s not designed to tackle data centers, but rather is laser-focused on the needs of branch offices – the next frontier of integrated systems. In fact, Forrester recently wrote about how the unique needs of a branch require a unique infrastructure approach. You can read about it in the report: Branch Offices Virtualize And Converge.

Why is a unique approach needed for branches?

Consider this:

  • Every datacenter serves, on average, 55 branches.
  • Organizations are spending over $4 billion every year on remote office IT.
  • Only 8% of these branches have embraced a consolidated infrastructure.
  • 50% of organizations have more than half of their corporate data in branches.
  • It takes 168 hours to recover from branch outages.

That’s why we took a unique approach to building an integrated system for the branch. Sure, it covers the basics. We offer integrated server, storage, networking, and management. But we also pioneered a set of unique innovations that include:

  • BlockStream: Integrated storage delivery. BlockStream is our patented technology that centralizes data in the data center and projects a working set out to the branch. We achieve this through the combination of three capabilities: 1) an authoritative block cache built into the SteelFusion Edge converged appliance; 2) a block-level pre-fetch algorithm that streamlines how the SteelFusion Core storage delivery controller accesses SAN data; and 3) data deduplication technology that reduces the amount of data transferred between Edge and Core.
  • SteelHead: Built-in WAN optimization. SteelFusion contains an integrated instance of the industry’s #1 WAN optimization solution. WAN optimization helps further streamline branch infrastructure by consolidating services back to the data center and accelerating all user traffic in the branch across the optimal networks at the lowest cost. Services that cannot be centralized are then run as virtual machines (VMs) on the converged appliance.
  • Virtual Services Platform (VSP): Branch-optimized virtualization. The SteelFusion Edge converged appliance contains a fully integrated instance of the VMware vSphere hypervisor, optimized to run remotely on a hardened branch appliance. Customers benefit from having the industry-standard virtualization platform, which can be managed with existing tools and capabilities. SteelFusion simply and seamlessly appears as a standard host in existing VMware vSphere and vCenter management tools.

The result of these innovations is pretty compelling. Not only do we harness the cost savings, predictability, performance, and supportability of any integrated system, but we enable customers to solve unique branch office challenges. To do this, we follow a simple, three-step methodology to redefine branch IT:

  • Converge. The first step to redefining your branch is to converge the islands of remote infrastructure onto a single, purpose-built platform. Riverbed SteelFusion brings VMware vSphere to the branch, allowing companies to deliver local performance while enabling data centralization, instant recovery, and lower TCO.The result: 30-50% cost savings in branch office infrastructure.
  • Centralize. Once converged, the second step to redefining your branch is to centralize your branch VMs and data back to your data center SAN infrastructure. The Riverbed SteelFusion architecture helps companies virtualize, centralize, and protect branch data seamlessly.The result: 30x reduction in branch service provisioning.
  • Protect. Once you’ve centralized your branch data, you can radically change how you recover from disasters. Your branch just went down due to a manmade or natural disaster? No problem. Just boot a virtual copy of your branch stored centrally in the data center. Sure, you’re employees are now accessing their application over the WAN, but they’re accessing the exact version that had been running just seconds before the outage. The result: 96x reduction in branch RTO and RPO and instant recovery, with instanty recovery and no lost employee productivity.

This is an exciting market and we’re glad to be pioneering a new flavor of integrated systems.

But don’t take our word for it. Read what Mike Rinken, the Director of Technology for Mazzetti, a mechanical engineering firm, had to say:

‘SteelFusion allows me to deploy an infrastructure template that I can then rollout to all of my offices globally. That template contains all the file servers, domain controllers, and application servers needed to run that branch.  I no longer need separate, physical infrastructure. It’s all running on a single branch converged infrastructure. More importantly, I’m centralizing and managing everything from one data center now. I no longer worry about remote infrastructure and data sitting out at remote offices. Even if the WAN goes down, my branch services still run locally. Once the link comes back up, than all the data is synched and users never incur any downtime. As far as we’re concerned, all the services are in one spot – which we then back up to the cloud. Disasters don’t cause downtime anymore.’

Or better yet, here him say all this and more in this video.

So, if you’re struggling with branch office IT, let us know. We have the integrated system for you.


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