The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

The same, but different

Posted by riverbedtest on September 16, 2011

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."   With all of the challenges and the increasing pace of decisions that need to be made in corporate IT these days, I suspect there are a lot of geniuses running enterprise networks!

Many of our customers tell me they have a similar dilemma — "I have a lot of branch offices and sites, each with their own personality, requirements and expectations, yet I achieve a lot of benefit in IT by keeping things the same as much as possible, in terms of reducing complexity and costs."    For example, some sites may need an enterprise class firewall or a print server, while other more remote sites are not directly connected to the Internet or need fewer services.  Virtualization offers benefits here — by increasing the flexibility by which software and services can be deployed, branch offices can be deployed as a uniform framework across many sites, while enabling administrators to clearly define where customization can and cannot be deployed.

Riverbed has been shipping a technology called RSP, the Riverbed Services Platform, for quite some time now — I love to bring this up this solution with customers who are facing this problem of managing multiple heterogeneous sites.   One of Riverbed's strengths is that our technology can optimize almost anything that travels across a customer's WAN, so by standardizing on Riverbed Steelheads for their WAN performance needs, they keep costs and complexity low.

Now, enter RSP:  by adding additional services running virtually on Steelheads deployed at the branches, each site can be changed to suit the individual needs of that site, while still maintaining a consistent virtualized platform across the enterprise.   I like to think of RSP as the Swiss Army knife of the branch.  We have customers running everything from Windows Server 2008R2, to Linux, to one of our numerous technology partners on RSP, all to satisfy the specific requirements of each site.  Some examples are:

  • DNS, DHCP, Print, and other services on Windows Server.  This is a common use case that allows you to run lightweight services at the branch virtually, without additional hardware.  You can even add additional storage to the Windows VM with iSCSI, or enable Branch Cache on the VM to add one-way file caching.
  • Steelhead Mobile Controller Virtual Edition (SMC-VE) Sites that have mobile users that need acceleration can benefit by consolidating and simplifying deployment, management and reporting functions.
  • Cascade Sensor VE.   Often, Steelhead appliances sit near the branch gateway and have a bird's eye view of traffic entering and exiting the branch.  By adding a Cascade Sensor VE, this information can be visualized, analyzed and reported.
  • Firewalls and Security Technologies:  including McAfee Firewall Enterprise Virtual Edition and Check Point Secure Gateway.
  • Branch Office Routing:  by using Vyatta on RSP, you can easily turn your Steelhead into an OSPF or IS-IS router, for example, for sites that need more sophisticated routing needs.

All in all, you can run up to 5 virtual machine instances on each RSP platform, and manage all of them under one interface using the Riverbed Central Management Console (CMC).  This is an easy way by which you can make your branch offices the same, but different enough to fulfill the diverse requirements of the distributed enterprise.

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