The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

Virtualizing Networks

Posted by riverbedtest on September 24, 2008

Denise Dubie’s blog in Network World makes some interesting observations on virtualization technology.  Recently-available and widely-deployed technologies have made it easy virtualize servers, storage, and desktop resources.  Server virtualization has allowed one managed server to deliver the capabilities of multiple servers.  Storage virtualization and thin provisioning allow us to obtain more storage utilization out of a given physical amount of storage capacity. And of course, desktop virtualization allows one physical workstation to access multiple virtual desktops.

According to Denise, the network hasn’t received much attention in the area of virtualization yet.  But she further states that "…the network will emerge from behind the scenes to command center stage and play a pivotal role in tomorrow’s virtualized environments."

I agree with Denise’s observations and projections, but I propose that her "tomorrow" is already happening today.  Today, more than 4500 Riverbed customers are getting virtualized performance and throughputs through their WAN infrastructure.  Let me show you what I mean…

Rvbd_performance So what is this diagram show?  The timescale shows that this data was obtained way back in early 2006, almost three years ago.  A prospective Riverbed customer had an E1 WAN connection from Atlanta to India.  Performance was miserable so they brought in Riverbed for an evaluation.  The results speak for themselves–the customer purchased these Riverbed devices and came back to purchase and deploy more of them for other locations.

But beyond the business that this customer generated for Riverbed, what does this diagram prove?  It shows that although the physical bandwidth on the WAN link was 2Mbps, the end-to-end virtual throughput over this link was as high as 60Mbps.  Without knowing the facts regarding the WAN infrastructure, one would think that the MRTG graph shows the performance of a Fast Ethernet LAN.  In other words, the Riverbed solution virtualized the 2Mbps WAN link to perform as if it were a Fast Ethernet LAN.

Many IT managers would presume that the key bottleneck in the WAN infrastructure is bandwidth.  But the key to virtualizing networks requires more than just virtualizing bandwidth; rather, it also requires virtualization of the distance aspect of networks.  In other words, a proper network virtualization solution must address not only bandwdith constraints in the physical WAN, but also the latency issues related to distance and speed-of-light.  And that is what sets the Riverbed solution apart–the Riverbed solution virtualizes not only LAN-like bandwidth, but LAN-like distances. 

The solution we’re talking about isn’t a future technology that we have to wait for; at this point it has been available and in use by major enterprises for more than 4 years.  It has been deployed in many of the largest IP networks in the world, in some cases supporting tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of remote end-users.  This network virtualization solution is being embraced and widely-deployed across the IT industry, today.

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