Arthur Cole spoke with Dimitri Vlachos, senior director of marketing and products, Cascade Business Unit, Riverbed Technology.
Cloud computing's greatest contribution to the enterprise is probably its ability to provide a cohesive, integrated data environment across great distances. To do that, however, you need a rock-solid wide area network (WAN), one that, ideally, works hand-in-hand with the underlying virtualization platform that makes the cloud possible. That's primarily why VMware and Riverbed have teamed up to put WAN functionality into the vCloud Director and VXLAN platform. As Riverbed's Dimitri Vlachos describes it, the pairing is a key component in the software-defined network.
Cole: There's been a lot of activity lately in moving WAN optimization off the appliance model and into more integrated solutions with leading virtual and cloud platforms. What is driving this?
Vlachos: In the past few years at Riverbed, we have been witnessing a transformation in the data center from one focused on physical infrastructure to a more consolidated and virtual environment. This first phase of virtualization was limited to server infrastructure in the data center with server virtualization. We are now seeing enterprises beginning to embrace the next phase of virtualization — the software-defined data center — where not only is the server infrastructure virtualized, but the network is as well. With this move to a more fully virtualized data center, network and application services must follow suit and provide the ability to spin up services like WAN optimization and performance management on-demand in a fully virtualized cloud environment — public or private.
Riverbed is addressing the performance challenges and concerns that come with this next phase by delivering solutions that make the transition as simple as it was with delivering server virtualization. Starting with easier-to-manage WAN optimization as a service with Riverbed Steelhead Cloud Edition integrated with VMware vCloud Director, and providing the IT industry’s first application-aware network performance management for software-defined networks (SDN) with Riverbed Cascade integrated with VMware VXLAN technology, Riverbed is providing solutions that IT leaders need to confidently move to a software-defined data center model.
Cole: What specifically is Riverbed hoping to achieve through its relationship with VMware? How will the Cascade platform supplement the VXLAN overlay format, for example, and the Steelhead Cloud Edition with the vCloud Director?
Vlachos: Riverbed is partnering with VMware to make the promise of SDN a reality. SDN is the key network technology to enable the software-defined data center. SDN allows for the quick and dynamic configuration of virtual overlay networks, over which virtual data centers run, in a matter of minutes. These virtual data centers (VDCs) are completely isolated from one another yet delivered over the same physical infrastructure. By decoupling the physical network elements from the virtualization layer, SDNs ensure that the physical network responds to the dynamic demands of applications and business demands. VXLAN is quickly being established as the leading SDN overlay technology in the market.
One of the challenges organizations adopting VXLAN will face is the loss of visibility. We saw this with server virtualization, and the same thing is now happening on the network side. At Riverbed, we see this as an opportunity and a call to arms to all the network engineers and operations managers; as virtualization happens at the network layer, they will need to face the enemies at the gate. That enemy appears in the form of dynamic VXLAN tunnels created on an as-needed basis to carry overlay traffic across the physical network. From an application standpoint, this is great — one can isolate development from a production environment without having to create parallel physical networks. And, this delivers tremendous flexibility for enterprises that are constantly rolling out new applications. Yet, VXLAN tunnels are creating an “invisibility cloak” over the SDN traffic. Network managers who are trying to troubleshoot and manage traffic will no longer see end-user or destination IP addresses, and they will lose the visibility they’re used to seeing, such as identifying “top-talkers” or the applications running on their networks.
Riverbed Cascade and VMware are reaching inside these tunnels, extracting the pertinent information that network teams need — which applications are running in which overlay network, what tunnel endpoints and VMs are involved, and how they interact, etc. This allows them to understand what is happening so they can troubleshoot problems as they arise and optimize the flow of information through the fully virtualized data center. Riverbed Cascade is removing the invisibility cloak. Network managers have two choices as they adopt VXLAN: operate blindly or use Riverbed Cascade to maintain the ability to monitor and troubleshoot network and application performance — across both the physical network and in a multi-tenant, SDN-based cloud — from a single, elegant dashboard.
Cole: Is it fair to say with the cloud propelling the concept of distributed architecture to new levels that the WAN is becoming the new LAN in terms of both performance and functionality?
Vlachos: In concept, yes — the WAN is becoming the new LAN as VDCs make it easier for organizations to extend their resources to remote locations or offices so that any user across the globe has the same access and responsiveness to applications. The introduction of VXLAN is what really makes this notion of the WAN becoming the LAN a reality. VMware VXLAN is an overlay network, a virtual network that is built on the top of physical network. Just as vSphere abstracted compute capacity from the server hardware to create virtual pools of resources that can be consumed as a service, VXLAN abstracts the network into a generalized pool of network capacity and separates the consumption of these services from the underlying physical infrastructure. These logical, virtual networks can be created on-demand and span physical boundaries to enable enterprises to optimize computing and storage capacity for mission-critical applications — wherever it's available.
Clearly the ability to have software-defined data centers and virtual networks spanning huge distances means that performance becomes an issue. End-user and application communication that used to span very short distances now may travel several thousands of miles — all without the application or user knowing. This is clearly a perfect use case for Riverbed WAN optimization solutions, making the WAN feel like the LAN. With the Steelhead Cloud Edition integration with vCloud Director, WAN optimization can be spun up within a VDC to ensure application performance, regardless of the physical topology underneath.
As customers look to adopt software-defined data center architecture for the cloud, network and application performance must be maintained, if not improved. With the Riverbed Cascade product family and WAN optimization solutions, customers can adopt SDN and software-defined data centers with confidence, knowing they can monitor network and application performance, as well as accelerate application performance in this new architecture.