SteelFusion — Where’s the Beef?

tiny_burgerRiverbed’s Gil Haberman blogged about how competitors crashed their SteelFusion launch party last week, bemoaning how they’re misleading the industry into thinking that “commodity solutions can deliver comparable value” to SteelFusion (formerly Granite). As the lead party crasher, I take umbrage (not really, but I’ve always wanted to use that word in a tech blog) with Haberman’s post. I never contended commodity solutions delivered comparable value to Riverbed’s SteelFusion; I argued that they deliver more value than SteelFusion — as much as three times more, to be exact.

More specifically, using Riverbed’s own reference architecture, I priced out a Silver Peak solution using Dell VRTX and Zerto replication. What I showed was that SteelFusion more than doubles the price of a Silver Peak-partner design. Actually, the differential is closer to four times the cost when correcting for the single point of failure in the Riverbed architecture ($90,281 vs. $344,775)!

Does SteelFusion give you four times the value?  I don’t think so. The use cases Riverbed identifies for SteelFusion — storage consolidation, branch recovery, and branch office data security – are well addressed by Silver Peak WAN optimization:

  • To streamline backup operations consider a data replication solution, such as Dell AppAssure or Zerto with Silver Peak software. You’ll be able to protect the local data store in the branch effortlessly and inexpensively from the data center.
  • To protect against branch failure, VRTX (or a High Availability server cluster) offers sufficient redundancy for most branches. Intelligently load-balancing traffic across dual-homed provider connections with Silver Peak’s Dynamic Path Control delivers affordable branch office survivability.
  • Secure branch data by consolidating the storage into the data center. Requests are sent over the WAN, accelerated and secured by Silver Peak VX/VRX software using Accelerated IPSec. All Silver Peak software instances offer Accelerated IPSec, which builds a 256-bit, AES-encrypted VPN between two locations. Data at rest is also encrypted with AES.

Riverbed likes to talk about keeping storage local, but in the company’s own whitepaper Riverbed notes that branch office local storage is often the result of mismanagement rather than best practices. Typically, write-intensive applications that require local storage are excellent candidates for consolidation back to the datacenter. Where they cannot be collapsed into the datacenter, industry best practice is to run a thin client architecture, such as Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop, Microsoft RDP, or VMWare Horizon, out to the branch office. Many, many organizations have proven this approach under a wide range of applications.

Today’s IT network infrastructure is increasingly built on services and virtual appliances leveraging “commodity” server for all the reasons we’ve come to realize with virtualization: cost, agility, and choice.  SteelFusion, though, is just another example of a proprietary appliance, an approach that locks IT into forced upgrades and high costs. Maybe SteelFusion can give you the bang you need, but at four-times the buck, will you bet your career on it?

Image credit: melissavoo (deviantART) / CC-BY-ND