Riverbed announces new Steelhead Platform in CX/EX and Product in Granite

The doom of Cisco WAAS is here, now. Who at Cisco is to blame?

Today Riverbed is announcing what I think is their best product to date in Granite. They are also showing two other steelhead models today in the CX and EX. I had the chance to sit down and chat with Bob Gilbert of Riverbed to ask a few questions and learn a little more.

Please tell us about your background at Riverbed and what your current position entails.

I joined Riverbed in early 2003 when we were a tiny Silicon Valley startup with less than 10 employees. As the company's first product manager, I helped define the product requirements for v1.0 of the Riverbed Steelhead wide area network (WAN) optimization appliance. Fast forward nine years and Riverbed has become one of the most successful technology companies. In my current role as the company's evangelist, I travel the globe presenting and demonstrating products, technologies, and solutions to a wide range of audiences. I also manage an awesome team that runs the social media, online community, and customer program efforts at Riverbed.

Riverbed just announced Granite, a new product with what sounds like innovative technology. What is Granite?

Granite is an architecturally disruptive product from Riverbed that does for edge servers outside of the data center what VDI did for desktops: It allows IT to consolidate and manage all edge servers in the data center. Granite decouples storage from servers, allowing data to reside in one location yet be projected and presented on edge servers as if it were local. In other words, it enables storage provisioned at the data center to be locally available at the branch office across the WAN at LAN speeds.

How is Granite deployed?

Granite is deployed symmetrically at the edge of a network as well as in the data center. At the edge, Granite Edge is deployed as a dedicated appliance or as an optional add-on to the Riverbed Steelhead EX series of WAN optimization appliances. In the data center, Granite Core is deployed as a dedicated or virtual appliance mounted on a storage array. Granite is the foundation of a new architectural approach called edge virtual server infrastructure (edge-VSI), where all data resides centrally yet is projected to applications at the edge as if it were local.

What is the value that Granite delivers and how is it different from traditional Riverbed WAN optimization products?

Granite does what was previously thought impossible: it allows storage to be decoupled from its server over thousands of miles of distance and work as if it were local to the server. With Granite, organizations can separate the storage from their branch servers and move that data to central data centers where it is more secure, controllable, and less costly to manage. With Granite, customers eliminate the need for costly, unreliable backup and recovery processes in the branch. As a result, customers can expect to save up to 50% what they're paying today to manage distributed environments.

Steelhead WAN optimization appliances, meanwhile, have been successfully deployed at more than 16,000 customers around the globe. Steelhead appliance customers are experiencing LAN-like performance for a variety of applications and use cases and we continue to improve upon these products with software updates and new hardware, such as the recent announcement of the Steelhead EX and CX families of WAN optimization products demonstrates.

However, we surveyed our customers and found that certain use cases require dedicated infrastructure in the branch. For example, customers may want a local server to handle huge datasets that they generate in the branch, or they have custom applications that demand LAN speed. We also found that many customers want server data to be accessible in the branch in the event of a WAN outage. Granite addresses these use cases by providing LAN speed access to the consolidated storage, even when the WAN is down.

Is Granite a stand-alone solution, or does it work with a Steelhead appliance?

At the edge, Granite Edge is deployed as a dedicated appliance or as an optional add-on to the Riverbed Steelhead EX series of WAN optimization appliances. In the data center, Granite Core is deployed as a dedicated or virtual appliance mounted on a storage array.

What protocols does Granite optimize?

Granite is a game changer when it comes to optimization and acceleration. With Granite, optimization is performed low in the stack at the block level. It goes beyond accelerating protocols such as CIFS, NFS, and HTTP at layer-7, to solve the performance problem in a completely different way.

Will Granite be on display at the Interop IT Expo and Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada?

Yes. Riverbed traditionally provides live demonstrations of our products at Interop and we're excited to showcase a live demo at the next Interop.

Is it as easy to deploy and test Granite as it is for Steelhead appliances?

Riverbed products are designed to be as simple as possible to configure and manage. Granite continues that focus. The Granite module add-on for Steelhead EX is a simple license that enables seamless functionality. If customers choose to deploy Granite as a stand-alone appliance, installation is as simple as deploying a traditional Steelhead. In both cases, IT managers have visibility into the functionality through a suite of tools available in the Granite management UI.

When will we see a new "chalk talk" video about Granite?

We released several Granite videos when we launched the product, including podcasts and product demos. You can access this content on the Riverbed blog (http://blog.riverbed.com/) and YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/riverbedtechnology).

What does Granite mean for your competitive position?

Granite is a unique and potential game-changing technology, and a perfect example of innovation beyond our traditional core strength. Regarding our innovation as it relates to WAN optimization, the recent release of RiOS 7.0 is a major update to our Steelhead platform delivering enhancements such as UDP optimization and HTTP live video streaming optimization.

What is next for Riverbed?

The Riverbed engineering team is working on the next wave of WAN optimization enhancements. The Riverbed performance platform extends beyond WAN optimization to cover network performance management, asymmetrical optimization, and cloud storage optimization. You're going to see Riverbed bring new and exciting performance solutions to market, either organically or through partnerships.

We have links to the press releases from Riverbed.



Preso on Steelhead CX/EX/VSP


Preso on Granite


Granite Demo


Podcast on Steelhead CX,EX,VSP and Granite


What does this mean for the Cisco WAAS? Who is to blame?

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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