This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

Earlier this year, Riverbed released a product known as the “Granite Edge Virtual Server Infrastructure (VSI)” to optimize the performance of many of the applications that it’s core product, Steelhead, does not. 

For those not familiar with the differences between Steelhead and Granite, the traditional Steelhead product optimizes the performance of file-based applications, such as Word and Exchange, through a number of acceleration technologies such as compression and TCP optimization.  Granite addresses block level applications such as database and virtual machines. 

While the continued growth of Steelhead demonstrated that there were a number of “killer apps” for it, the killer application for Granite was not obvious, since there aren’t that many block storage based applications run in the data center. 

At this week’s VMworld, Riverbed demonstrated a capability of Granite that is the best example of a killerish application for this unique technology, and that’s VMware View.  Riverbed claims that Granite can bring LAN like performance to distributed VMware View environments such as Branch Office Desktop (BOD) and Business Process Desktop (BPD). 

VDI may be hot, but it is a challenge to deploy.  WANs are inherently flaky, long distances, high latency connections, high bandwidth costs and WAN outages all made it difficult to centralize the VDI infrastructure in a data center and then have users access it from the branch.  Deploying it as a WAN application can often lead to inconsistent or poor user experience of the virtual desktop.

VDI is hot, but it’s not a great WAN application.  Long distance links, high latency connections, high bandwidth costs and WAN outages all make deploying VDI in any kind of networked environment inherently unscalable. 

The obvious solution is to deploy VDI infrastructure in each branch location making the length of connection to the VDI servers across the office – a very short, manageable length that has the best possible experience.  This distributed model through is the most difficult to manage. 

This left IT with a tough choice.  High performance and low manageability or low performance with high manageability.  The other choice, of course, is do nothing, which is what a lot of customers chose.  This is one of the reasons VDI remains a niche application for a handful of workers.

Riverbed’s Granite promises the best of both worlds.  The way Granite works is the View servers connect to the Granite appliance in the data center.  The data center Granite does a fast, block level copy of that virtual desktop to the Granite appliance in the data center and then two are kept in continuous synchronization.  The users access the local version of the desktop in the branch.  The IT department manages and maintains the centralized version in the data center. 

The View optimization is the best example I’ve seen of what Granite can do.  I know custom applications are a good addressable market as well but custom applications, by definition, are unique to a company where View has the potential of being a near-ubiquitous application over time.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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