Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/11/riverbed_cloud_steelhead_whitewater/

Riverbed speeds app and backup cloud access

Cloud Steelhead and Whitewater give faster penetration

By Chris Mellor

Posted in Data Networking, 11th November 2010 16:21 GMT

Network optimisation supplier Riverbed has introduced products to speed client access to applications in the cloud and to speed cloud backup and restore operations.

Riverbed's Steelhead appliances sit either side of a wide area network (WAN) link and speed remote office client access to applications and data in a central data centre, using a combination of WAN optimisation, app communication optimisation, caching and reduplication. The intention is to provide application access that seems to be local rather than WAN-based.

The company views access to applications in the cloudy as just another WAN link to be accelerated and does so by having a virtual Steelhead instance - the application code running in a virtual machine - executing in the cloud and dealing with the remote Steelhead used by the client system. Existing Steelhead installations can readily use it.

The Cloud Steelhead is not exactly the same as a virtualised Steelhead on the ground though. Paul Griffiths, a global consulting engineer at Riverbed Technology, said: "It is virtual in the sense that it is designed to be hosted in a hypervisor. However, it is not to be confused with Riverbed Virtual Steelhead. Cloud Steelhead is different because although it is running the same RiOS Software as any other Steelhead appliance, virtual or physical, Cloud Steelhead has the extra flexibility to enable it to be provisioned, accessed and leased in a cloud services model."

Cloud Steelhead v1.0 will integrate with Amazon's EC2 and Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). Cloud Steelheads can be deployed anywhere in the cloud; they don't have a fixed physical server location and therefore need to be told which traffic to optimise.

Steelhead instances will offer Steelhead Discovery Agent, running in a virtual server and deployed in a WAN optimisation group. It is in place for transparent cloud interception and to ensure that the Cloud Steelhead is, as it were, paired with a client Steelhead so that the right traffic gets optimised.

It is as if the remote Steelhead accesses the data centre Steelhead which, knowing that the access is valid and that there is a Cloud Steelhead for that traffic, redirects the remote Steelhead access to the Cloud Steelhead.

At the announcement event, Riverbed staff demonstrated Steelhead Mobile on a MacBook downloading a file from cloud via Cloud Steelhead and contrasted its LAN-like performance with downloading the same file from an un-optimised WAN link. It was much faster from the ground SteelHead-to-Cloud Steelhead link, about 10 times faster.

Riverbed said it will be aggressively expanding the cloud environments that Cloud Steelhead supports.

There is a Riverbed Cloud Portal for management and cloning of Cloud Steelhead instances, which will allow sysadms to use existing Cloud Steelhead settings and configurations when bringing new Cloud Steelhead instances online.

Whitewater

The Whitewater product is new. The appliance acts as a backup and restore cloud gateway. It sits as a bump in the wire and functions as a backup target for a media server using the CIFS or NFS protocols. Apart from that it is remote storage accessed by HTTP or HTTPS via APIs such as REST or Atmos.

The existing backup infrastructure doesn't have to be modified to use the cloud. What Whitewater does to an incoming backup data stream is to deduplicate it inline, using Riverbed's own deduplication technology, then encrypt it using AES 256-bit code running as software in the appliance. The encryption keys are managed in the customer's data centre with their existing key management system, so keys never leave the customer's control.

Griffiths explained how Whitewater operates: "With Steelhead, customers have been used to having two Steelheads, one at each end of the link. With Whitewater we are deduplicating data all the way to the cloud storage – where it remains in its deduplicated form. The Whitewater in the customer's data centre is also used to rebuild the deduplicated data back from the cloud, for example, during a restore. This means that you have nothing in the cloud except data, which allows for greater simplicity of deployment.”

“The [deduplication] index data or map is held on the Whitewater and a copy of it is held in the cloud in encrypted form. [The reason for this is] mainly in the unlikely situation of a Whitewater device failing and needing to be replaced, all the relevant information can be restored to the new Whitewater device – ensuring full data access to the customer. If desired, additional redundancy can be provided by using a secondary Whitewater in an high-availability configuration.”

Whitewater links to clouds such as EMC's Atmos, AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service and Amazon S3. Riverbed said it hopes to expand this set of cloud destinations to such places as Microsoft's Azure and Nirvanix.

There are three versions of the product. Virtual Whitewater is customer-provisioned and holds up to 2TB of data itself, although the cloud capacity is unlimited, as it is with the other two models. The maximum LAN throughput is up to 200GB/hour. Whitewater-1000 holds up to 5.7TB directly, has RAID-6b protection, and its maximum LAN throughput is 1TB/hour. Whitewater-2000 differs from this by holding up to 13.7TB directly.

A Riverbed demo had a customer restoring 5GB of a year's worth of US EDGAR Filings, which took nine hours at around 8MB/minute. Then Riverbed's eager-beaver staff squirted the same data up to the cloud through a Whitewater box and then restored it in about 10 minutes at 517MB/minute. Obviously a great result but there must have been a massive benefit from deduplicating that data.

In more realistic performance tests run by the Enterprise Strategy Group, restores from the cloud were executed with ZIP files restoring at approximately 13MB/sec, while deduplication-friendly .vmdk files restored at a rate of 47MB/sec with the Whitewater appliance.

Whitewater pricing starts at under $12,000 and the product will be available before the end of the year.

Riverbed is offering a subscription-based pricing model for Cloud Steelhead, starting from $250/month, and the product will be available before the end of the year as well. ®