The Riverbed Blog (testing)

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Archive for August, 2011

Kicking the Tires in a Lab

Posted by riverbedtest on August 19, 2011

As engineers we enjoy getting under the hood of a new solution and getting our hands dirty. In some cases, you might even get paid to conduct studies or tests. While there is no more interesting scenario to analyze a solution than in production, some times we have to study solutions in a lab.

Davinci_iphone When a potential client mentions a robust lab study to base purchasing decisions or recommendations on I tend to get a little worried. Primarily, because testing WAN optimization in a lab doesn’t typically expose the complexities of production environments.  Furthermore, testing WAN optimization isn’t as straight-forward or as well understood as other standardized technologies. For starters, many of the popular automated test tools don’t support the application layer (OSI Layer 5-7) fluency needed to properly evaluate application acceleration for protocols like MAPI, CIFS, NFS, etc. Next, the boilerplate content in these tools doesn’t represent production datasets at the byte level so the ‘out-of-the-box’ deduplication test results aren’t representative. Many times the test tools are measuring per-packet or inter-packet metrics, while WAN optimizers are focused on per-transaction optimization by proxying TCP connections…which means we have three different sets of packets per transaction (client-side, inner channel & server-side).  So the test tool ‘timing’ reports aren’t always applicable or representative of the actual user experience.  Not to mention the application security infrastructure and requirements in a lab may not mirror the production environment (I.E. encrypted Outlook/Exchange, CIFS SMB Signing, Kerberos/NTLMv2 authentication, SSL requires smart-cards, etc).  These are just a few of the many hurdles you need to be aware of in test environments.

So now that we’ve discussed the challenges, let’s look at how you can structure a reasonable test lab for WAN Optimization…although in my opinion there is no substitute for production testing.  First, we need to emulate the production network performance characteristics in a dependable WAN Emulator, such as Apposite’s Linktropy. Next, we need to thoroughly understand the production applications on the real network so we know what to test and how to properly configure the test resources. If possible, setup a test client lab that connects to production servers so you don’t have to worry about building or configuring test servers. Don’t forget to check the applications’ security architecture such as settings for authentication, encryption and domain integration…many times these settings either make or break WAN optimization project success in production. Next, understanding the most common transactions for these applications will help us define individual test cases. Getting adequate sample content and data for these test transactions will provide the basis for measuring the effectiveness of deduplication.  The more samples/content the more representative your results will be. To test deduplication you’ll want to setup initial and subsequent test runs with the same or similar datasets. Typically, these are called cold, warm and partially warm tests.  For testing common applications like CIFS and HTTP you can use Riverbed’s Riverbench software to record time and throughput metrics, just ask your Riverbed Sales Engineer for a copy. A great place to find free performance test tools is Open Source Testing. If needed, setup test cases for the other features of the WAN optimization solution you’re considering.  Commonly these are Quality of Service, visibility, virtualization, etc. 

Prior to starting any testing thoroughly baseline the environment so you can work out any wrinkles…there is nothing more frustrating than starting formal testing only to find misconfigured speed/duplex settings or interface queues that are too short.

For post-test analysis you should use packet capture tools such as Pilot, Shark, and Wireshark to capture packets on the client-side, WAN and server-side of the WAN optimizers during each test. This will allow you to very quickly dive into the intricate details, and have hard data to backup the test results should they come into question.

In 2007 Network World setup their first WAN optimization test lab. There were gracious enough to put together a podcast on how they did it and the lessons learned along the way. I highly suggest you take the time to learn from it prior to setting up your own test lab for WAN optimization. 

When in doubt consult your Riverbed Sales Engineer.  They have extensive experience in testing WAN optimization and can be quite helpful.

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best – “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

 

Posted in Bandwidth Optimization, Technical | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

So you want to know about ADC?

Posted by riverbedtest on August 18, 2011

Zeus2 Riverbed recently announced our acquisition of Zeus Technology, a privately-owned company that delivers high-performance, software-based application delivery controllers (ADCs). As we integrate Zeus into Riverbed, we will produce a series of blog posts over the next few weeks that dive deeper into ADCs and will explain how Zeus will benefit the Riverbed community.

Let’s start by laying out why businesses need ADCs. At the most fundamental level, applications are the Twitter_fail_whale1 cornerstone of any organization’s online business. They give life to an organization’s online presence by enabling e-shopping, and access to various online services and other Web-based activities. But the truth is, despite the best efforts of developers, most common Web and network-enabled applications are prone to some instability and performance issues. One example of this — which has become ingrained in American culture — is Twitter’s fail whale. But every day there are thousands of other outages, slowly eating into the bottom lines of businesses across all sectors and sizes.

Here’s where ADCs come in. We’ll use an example to show how they work exactly. The online retail superstar, Gilt Groupe, gets millions of unique visitors to its website every day. This means Gilt Groupe could lose a significant chunk of their daily profits if they suffer just 10 minutes of downtime, especially if this happens during its hugely popular daily sale. To ensure that its customers aren’t faced with outages and to increase its revenues, Gilt Groupe moved some of its web applications to the cloud and enlisted Zeus’ ADC to manage its traffic spikes. As a result, Gilt Groupe enjoyed a 50 percent reduction in back-end costs, faster page loads, the ability to handle triple the traffic and track visitor spikes. So how exactly do ADCs do this? Here are the technical details:  

  • Horizontal scaling. Load balancing traffic across a number of servers increases the capacity of  services in a very controlled way by immediately directing each incoming request to the fastest server, and then cleverly tracking user sessions, through a process called session persistence, so that even applications that are not designed to be clustered, can safely be scaled this way.
  • Offloading tasks. Big performance gains can be realized by offloading compute intensive tasks, like SSL decryption, compression, and XML normalization onto the front-end of ADC. This frees up CPU cycles on the application servers to concentrate on application logic.
  • Caching common responses. By remembering the response to common requests, ADCs can reduce the number of requests that have to be relayed to the back-end of the server.
  • Network optimization. Many applications perform very poorly when talking to slow, remote clients over unreliable network lines. ADCs can optimize the network traffic by doing things like proxying and upgrading connections so that the application believes it’s talking to fast, local clients that support all of the performance-improving features of the protocol.
  • Health monitoring. If a server fails or stops sending responses, an ADC’s built-in health monitor will detect this and avoid sending traffic to that server until it is repaired.
  • Deep-traffic inspection. If anything unusual or unexpected is detected, a Java back trace for example, the request can be retried against a different server for a better response.
  • Security features. Good ADCs will apply security policies, like discarding denial-of-service attempts, filtering out attack signatures, and validating requests against known problems with back-end infrastructure.
  • Efficiency. ADC technology also provides a bird’s-eye view of everything that is happening across the network, like how quickly are servers responding? What sorts of traffic levels are occurring? Which servers are failing?

All of these functions usually come as a huge relief to businesses that can rest easy knowing that their customers won’t be faced with slow applications or frustrating outages. For example, now that Gilt Groupe is amongst the hottest online retailers in the market, it’s also seeing a barrage of new users every day. And thanks to its ADC, it has to the tools to embrace this surge of popularity, without worrying about its site crashing.

Stay tuned for the next blog, which will appear next Thursday, in which we’ll tell you more about what made Zeus the industry’s ADC leader.

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Bad Riverbed Interns!

Posted by bobegilbert on August 17, 2011

Riverbed's 2011 group of interns created this video as a fun way to show how their summer working at Riverbed went.  Bad interns!

 

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Meet the Riverbed Summer Interns, Part 8

Posted by riverbedtest on August 15, 2011

We'd like to thank our intern Emily Pyne for putting together these Intern Introductions all summer.  This will be the last of these, as Emily's internship has ended.  Thank you to Emily and to all of the interns who participated in this project.

Rohan Naik

Department: Stock Administration

Age: 19

School: UC San Diego–Political Science/Economics major

Interests/hobbies: watching sports (go Niners/Dubs/Giants), playing baseball, writing, social work for my fraternity (Kappa Sigma)

Have you interned at Riverbed before?

This is my first time interning at Riverbed. As this internship is nearing its end, I can confidently say this was one of the best environments I’ve had the privilege of working at. All of the employees here, from our own managers to employees outside our department, have been very welcoming and open to lending a helping hand. Riverbed is truly a great company with great people.

What projects are you working on?

This summer I have worked on several different projects. I’ve updated trading plans and their respective grants for senior members of the company, worked on an international compliance project, updated employee stock information, worked with a program called Equity Edge that manages employee’s stock. 

What have you learned at your time at Riverbed?

This has already has been an incredible learning experience. Working in the stock department for a public company that trades on the NASDAQ has allowed me to be exposed to the various logistics that go into managing stock for domestic employees and also the different regulations that are in place for international employees. I’ve also found a potential career path as my manager has been teaching me about the CEP, an option that is definitely appealing to me.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 years I’ll be 24, graduated from college, and hopefully holding a steady job. I’ve always wanted to get my MBA but that is probably something I would want to get after working for a few years post-graduation. But since it’s summer time I really see myself living it up on an island like Ibiza, sipping on a pina colada and enjoying life to its fullest.  

 


Ryan Lundquist

Department at Riverbed: Corporate sales – Business development

Age: 20

School: Ohlone college

Interests/hobbies: Guitar, gym, surfing, outdoors, camping, partying, I’m an excellent pool player after these 8 weeks at riverbed J

Have you interned at Riverbed before? 

This is my first summer here at Riverbed.   It was a great experience, it’s a wonderful place to work!

What projects are you working on?

I’ve been doing countless projects, updating accounts in salesforce, cleaning up excel documents containing different  customer groups, adding information to customer groups where information was limited, as well as calling into Cash for RMA accounts trying to set up meetings.

What are you hoping to learn/ have you learned at your time at riverbed this summer?

 I’ve learned that working in an office environment is not so bad at all.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Working. At a company. Making money.

 

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The Industrial Cloud Revolution

Posted by riverbedtest on August 12, 2011

Does anyone else miss writing those high school history papers? You know, the ones that all start “With the Industrial Revolution came widespread change across the economic, political and social fabric of western civilization…” Blah, blah, blah. Anyone? Anyone?

Not so much, eh? Okay, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve flown solo in the history-nerd department.

But the reason the Industrial Revolution was such a great opener for many a high-school history paper was that it really did transform the economics of production, which had wide-reaching implications for modern civilization. Production went from small-scale, localized, cottage-industry to large-scale, concentrated production centers benefiting from economies of scale and scope. Various innovations, from the flying shuttle to the assembly line, were instrumental in creating the efficiencies of industrial revolution factories, but at the end of the day, creating more products, more quickly wasn’t worth much unless you had exposure to enough customers to buy them. In other words, you had to get all those products to market.

Enter the steam engine. With a steam-powered railway infrastructure, industrialized manufacturers could get their products to more markets, faster.  Which is a good thing when you just churned out more pairs of pants in a year than everyone in a hundred mile radius could wear in their combined lifetimes.

So, why am I going off about steam engines and the Industrial Revolution? Well, here in IT land, we’re having a bit of an Industrial Revolution redux. Virtualization has enabled IT administrators to consolidate servers and gain economies of scale, and companies like Amazon, Rackspace and AT&T are beginning to offer basic IT services on-demand, passing on even GREATER economies of scale. But all the cheaper, on-demand compute and storage in the world isn’t worth much if you can’t get the product (applications) to market (users).

We need a steam engine for the cloud revolution. Oh, wait! WAN optimization has proven to accelerate network-based applications by reducing bandwidth consumption and the impact of latency. Choo-choo!! Layer on network performance monitoring (who’s keeping track of all these trains?), web content optimization (how are we loading these products on the trains?), and application delivery controllers (what train is going where, when?) and you have yourself the speed and intelligence for a high-performance cloud delivery system.

All aboard!

Extra credit: Join Amazon Web Services Senior Evangelist, Jeff Barr, and me on August 17 for a webinar on how to optimize your cloud server deployments. Register here!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

The Industrial Cloud Revolution

Posted by riverbedtest on August 12, 2011

Does anyone else miss writing those high school history papers? You know, the ones that all start “With the Industrial Revolution came widespread change across the economic, political and social fabric of western civilization…” Blah, blah, blah. Anyone? Anyone?

Not so much, eh? Okay, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve flown solo in the history-nerd department.

PSM_V41_D520_A_leather_factory_stitching_room But the reason the Industrial Revolution was such a great opener for many a high-school history paper was that it really did transform the economics of production, which had wide-reaching implications for modern civilization. Production went from small-scale, localized, cottage-industry to large-scale, concentrated production centers benefiting from economies of scale and scope. Various innovations, from the flying shuttle to the assembly line, were instrumental in creating the efficiencies of industrial revolution factories, but at the end of the day, creating more products, more quickly wasn’t worth much unless you had exposure to enough customers to buy them. In other words, you had to get all those products to market.

Enter the steam engine. With a steam-powered railway infrastructure, industrialized manufacturers could get their products to more markets, faster.  Which is a good thing when you just churned out more pairs of pants in a year than everyone in a hundred mile radius could wear in their combined lifetimes.
BMR_423,_1993,_Reading,_Pennsylvania

So, why am I going off about steam engines and the Industrial Revolution? Well, here in IT land, we’re having a bit of an Industrial Revolution redux. Virtualization has enabled IT administrators to consolidate servers and gain economies of scale, and companies like Amazon, Rackspace and AT&T are beginning to offer basic IT services on-demand, passing on even GREATER economies of scale. But all the cheaper, on-demand compute and storage in the world isn’t worth much if you can’t get the product (applications) to market (users).

We need a steam engine for the cloud revolution. Oh, wait! WAN optimization has proven to accelerate network-based applications by reducing bandwidth consumption and the impact of latency. Choo-choo!! Layer on network performance monitoring (who’s keeping track of all these trains?), web content optimization (how are we loading these products on the trains?), and application delivery controllers (what train is going where, when?) and you have yourself the speed and intelligence for a high-performance cloud delivery system.

 All aboard!

Extra credit: Join Amazon Web Services Senior Evangelist, Jeff Barr, and me on August 17 for a webinar on how to optimize your cloud server deployments. Register here!

Posted in Fun, Hybrid Cloud, Public Cloud, Web Content Optimization | Leave a Comment »

Riverbed’s Optimization Solutions for the Cloud

Posted by riverbedtest on August 11, 2011

Recently I saw a blog post on ReadWriteWeb / Cloud by David Strom where he described the roles that WAN Optimization can play in helping accelerate Cloud-based IT services.

This has long been an area of attention at Riverbed; for years now we have been helping Enterprises address and solve the challenges they've faced with business applications performing poorly across their private WANs. Riverbed's award-winning Steelhead family of WAN Optimization appliances have held a leading position in the global market for the last several years, according to several leading industry analyst firms.

Now, in the era of Cloud-based IT services, the performance problems created by the increased distance between users and their data, combined with the lack of QoS and un-guaranteed internet performance are significantly worse than those faced within a structured and well-known corporate IT environment. Thus the need for performance optimization in these cloud environments is even greater than in traditional, private corporate IT.

These requirements have prompted Riverbed to develop and offer a whole range of products and technologies, to address the vast majority of Cloud-based IT applications and environments. In his recent blog post,  David mentioned only one Riverbed product in this context, the Steelhead Appliance.   SH

In addition to this though Riverbed also has the following products available to address the Acceleration & Optimization needs of virtual and cloud environments :

  1. Virtual Steelhead – as the name suggests, a virtual version of the Steelhead product that can be run on VMWare ESX/ESXi platforms
  2. Cloud Steelhead – Steelhead WAN Optimization + simple portal-based management, On-demand instantiation, easy cloning, fliexible sizing and pricing
  3. Riverbed Whitewater – a single-ended Cloud Storage Gateway that delivers speed, security, cost-efficiency and ease of use for Cloud-based storage services Ww and of course
  4. Steelhead Mobile – PC and MAC client acceleration software, so you can enjoy accelerated cloud IT services from anywhere, over any connectivity medium.

Additionally with the recent acquisition of both Zeus and Aptimize, Riverbed now also has two new Single-Ended technologies – Application Delivery Controller and Web Content Optimization – to help accelerate  both public and private cloud-based web content and applications.

So in summary, Riverbed really should be your first port of call for any cloud IT service acceleration & optimization requirements.

Posted in Application Acceleration, Bandwidth Optimization, Hybrid Cloud, Mobile, Private Cloud, Public Cloud, Storage Cloud, Virtualization, Web Content Optimization | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Optimizing Anti-Virus Updates with Riverbed

Posted by bobegilbert on August 10, 2011

Implementing an anti-virus platform can be a strain on your network when the PCs you are aiming to protect require frequent virus definition updates from a central location.  Riverbed's Steelhead family of WAN optimization products performs well when it comes to minimizing the impact that anti-virus software has on your wide area network.  Steelhead can dramatically reduce the amount of data traversing your WAN for the initial anti-virus deployment as well as the frequent follow-on updates that take place.

Thanks to Riverbed Channel SE Emmanual Forgues, below are the results from deploying Riverbed in an environment where Kapersky ant-virus is configured.

The setup is pretty straightforward and involves a branch office connecting to a datacenter over a 2Mbps WAN link with 80ms RTT latency.  

1
 
The first test is the initial deployment of the Kapersky anti-virus platform from the server in the datacenter to the workstation in the branch office. 

2

As you can see from the above Steelhead appliance report, 43% of the traffic for the initial anti-virus deployment was eliminated from the WAN.  This is essentially the effect of applying on-the-fly LZ compression to the data.

The next step is to attempt the same deployment now that the Steelhead appliances have seen the data.

4
 
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  The result is 96% data reduction!  The next test is to attempt an anti-virus update for the first time.

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27% data reduction on the first pass.  Now let's try another update.

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60% data reduction or only 98.3MB was transferred over the WAN out of 47.7MB of possible data.  To summarize, both anti-virus deployments and follow on definition updates can be receive a tremendous amount of optimization by Riverbed.

This was a test using Kapersky Anti-Virus.  Riverbed customers are seeing similar results with other products such as McAfeee and Symantec. Regardless of your anti-vrisu platform, Riverbed can be an essential part of your anti-virus deployment strategy. 

 

Posted in Application Acceleration, Bandwidth Optimization | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Things are fishy at Riverbed

Posted by bobegilbert on August 10, 2011

The fish theme continues to be represented in various ways at Riverbed Technology.  From our flagship Steelhead appliance being named after a trout to our Whitewater cloud storage gateway and Cascade network performance products representing the earthy environments that provide ideal habitats for fish.

This week in particular kicked off in a very fishy way as a new Riverbed logo'd fishing hat was recently provided to our sales team and as a result, photos covering activities involving the hat started flowing in.

If you are a Riverbed customer, partner, or employee, we would love to see your fish photos!  Please send them to bob@riverbed.com

JesseFeldman

RickHolden

DavePreston

JohnWolf  

Chris_Seaman

Jim_Brannigan

Posted in Fun | 1 Comment »

Patting ourselves on the back just a little

Posted by riverbedtest on August 9, 2011

A few days ago, Jeremy Geelan of Cloud Computing Journal published his list of the Top 100 Bloggers on Cloud Computing.  We are very pleased and proud to tell you that our own Steve Riley and his frequent contributions to this blog were recognized on Jeremy's list.

Jeremy says that he's not ranking the blogs or the bloggers, at least not yet, so we can safely say that Steve is currently tied for first place (with everyone else)!

The bad news, at least for Steve, is that now we're going to ask him to blog more often.  But that's good news for those of us who enjoy his blog columns, like this one and this one.

So again, congratulations, Steve!

In case you don't know Steve, here is how he introduces himself on our About Blog Authors page:

I’m a Technical Leader in the Strategic Technology Group, part of the Office of the CTO at Riverbed Steve Technology; my focus here will be all things cloud. Before joining Riverbed I worked at Amazon Web Services and at Microsoft where I specialized in information security, compliance, privacy, and policy. During much of that time I traveled the world to speak at numerous cloud computing, telecommunications, information security, and Microsoft technical conferences. I co-authored a book about Windows network security, contributed a chapter to a book on auditing cloud computing, published numerous articles, and conducted technical reviews of several data networking and communications books.

When not lurking in the Internet's dark alleys and secret passages, I play the French horn and alto horn in three symphonic and brass bands. If you engage me in conversation we’ll likely end up discussing the intersection of technology and culture. Contact me anytime at steve.riley@riverbed.com or on Skype as stvrly.

And here you can see Steve in action in a recent video recorded at Interop 2011 in Las Vegas.


 

OK, enough self-congratulations!  Back to work!

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