Riverbed Granite Speeds Up WAN Storage

Granite, the latest acceleration technology from Riverbed Technology, is designed to speed up storage across the WAN and drive the consolidation of data centers.

Well-known for its application acceleration products, Riverbed Technology delves into the next logical phase of speeding up traffic across WANs with its new accelerator technology, called Granite. Simply put, Riverbed's Granite does for WAN storage, what Riverbed's Steelhead does for application over the WAN€”acceleration.

Riverbed Granite's primary purpose is to improve storage performance across the WAN. It accomplishes that by carrying out block data transfers across WANs without the many back-and-forth exchanges that make such movements time-consuming now. Granite can essentially achieve the same thing with blocks of data that Riverbed's Steelhead appliance does with applications, slashing wait times at branches, which can also provide the foundation for enterprises to centralize their storage.

Eric Wolford, executive vice president and general manager of the company's products group told eWEEK: "Granite's ability to accelerate storage is only part of the story. Granite will also improve virtual desktop performance over long distances, making VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] possible for many more remote users."

The technology should prove to be very important to enterprises as a way to consolidate data centers, improve branch-office and remote-user experiences and ultimately reduce costs by better using bandwidth and reducing the number of data centers needed by an enterprise.

What's more, enterprises should realize additional savings in the form of reduced management costs, better leveraging of virtualization technologies and a cumulative reduction in power usage from a reduced hardware footprint.

"Granite will help to project data center storage to the edge of the network, so that the edge thinks that the disk is actually local," said Wolford. "Performance gains are provided by changing how a server typically gets data from a storage array. Granite, using its awareness of the file system, allows the remote server to retrieve all the required blocks of data in one round-trip transaction, instead of making the server work with storage blocks to requests the bits from each block in sequence. Over a WAN, that process can take a long time because messages and data need to travel over a long distance."

Granite's ability to remove the €œchattiness€ of storage transactions helps to reduce the realized latency of moving data from storage across a WAN to a server. That allows enterprises to take full advantage of the speed available on their current WAN links.

Riverbed recently demonstrated Granite's effectiveness at a Feb. 1 press event in San Francisco by showing 200MB of files being copied to a remote server from a data center in a few seconds, and booting up a remote system from a Windows 2008 OS stored in the data center in about 40 seconds. Although not a definitive test, the demonstration did show that storage performance was increased multifold by the technology.

Granite can be used for centralizing resources in three key cases that Riverbed's other products were unable to address: custom applications, write-intensive applications, and the need to keep working at the remote site if disconnected from the data center, Wolford said.

When the technology ships in the end of March, Granite will initially use iSCSI for block storage transfers across the WAN, but the company plans later to add Fibre Channel capability. It can bring that data to servers using Microsoft New Technology File System (NTFS), with Linux Extended File System (EXT) coming later. Enterprises will be able to get started with Granite for less than $12,000, according to Senior Product Marketing Manager Miles Kelly.