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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Demystifying Cloud Computing with Dormain Drewitz, Riverbed Technology

December 17, 2012 No Comments

There is no doubt that there are immediate and measurable business benefits of moving to the Cloud, but along with these benefits come challenges.

In the below interview, Dormain Drewitz from Riverbed Technology outlines ways in which organizations can overcome some of these data challenges and effectively transition to Cloud Computing.

Q. As Cloud Computing has evolved and changed it has become less mysterious. Can you please explain a bit about your concept of Cloud Computing as “Just Another Data Center”?

A. Whether it’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), or Infrastructure-as-a-Service, IT organizations are considering cloud services as another venue for hosting data and applications, along with private data centers, co-location facilities, managed services, etc. These various venues and flavors of cloud services each have their benefits and challenges, from cost to customization to compliance. It’s up to each organization to determine where the best fit is for their various workloads. However, having the flexibility to “right-place” applications and data across all of these venues is a challenge for IT organizations. The Riverbed performance platform addresses those challenges head on, allowing organizations to deploy across the best mix of venues, both as that stands today and easily adapt as that ideal mix evolves in the future.

Q. Do you think that there will be an eventual paradigm shift to Cloud Computing being the primary solution supporting modern business functionality?

A. Every organization is going to have a different set of requirements, applications, and user profiles, which means that the mix of public and private venues that best suits an organization is going to vary widely. And those parameters will not remain static. Having the flexibility to move into, out of, and between clouds supersedes the question of where the dominant venue will be in the future. As long as organizations are dealing with multiple cloud services and some amount of internal application infrastructure, having a flexible architecture to be able to deliver applications from anywhere that meet users’ performance requirements is going to be a challenge

Q. What benefits and drawbacks do you see resulting from the ever growing presence of third party applications and virtualization?

A. Enterprises face enormous complexity in their IT environments today, which poses a challenge to day-to-day operations as well as data center transformation projects, including the integration of cloud services. Multi-tier applications are broadly interconnected, and gaining a complete picture of their dependencies is complicated by events like mergers and acquisitions or developer headcount turnover. Virtualization has improved resource utilization and flexibility in the data center, but it also creates black holes from a visibility perspective. Intra-host traffic may never touch the physical network, and virtual overlay networks tunnel traffic so that is obscured from traditional monitoring tools.

Q. How important is “visibility” when organizations are attempting to efficiently move into the Cloud?

A. Given how complex application infrastructure has become, visibility is critical to making any kind of change in an IT environment, including moving to cloud services. Otherwise, IT risks unnecessary service disruptions when making those changes. Understanding which users are using which applications, which web servers are connected to which app servers and database servers, allows IT to plan consolidation and migration projects with lower risk to ongoing application delivery.

Q. What solutions can Riverbed Technology offer to help increase this visibility for businesses today?

A. Riverbed’s Cascade application aware network performance management solution uses real network traffic to build an accurate dependency map of applications so that IT can make changes and “right-place” application infrastructure without risking unnecessary service disruption. As companies look to build their own private clouds and take full advantage of virtualization and automation, Cascade provides the necessary visibility into virtual hosts and virtual overlay networks to build that complete picture of their application infrastructure and enable rapid troubleshooting. As IT departments evolve their infrastructure architecture, Cascade closes the feedback loop on application performance so that users get the application experience they need to run and grow the business.

Q. What other solutions can Riverbed offer to organizations looking to optimally manage their data and transition to a more Cloud focused approach?

A. Having the flexibility to deploy applications across a range of internal and public cloud services means overcoming barriers to performance with speed, scalability, and resiliency. Riverbed’s Steelhead WAN optimization solutions accelerate applications from internal and public cloud services, while reducing bandwidth utilization. In addition to enabling applications to be consolidated from edge locations into private clouds, Cloud Steelhead extends that optimization into IaaS cloud services, like Amazon Web Services, and Steelhead Cloud Accelerator dynamically optimizes SaaS applications, like Office 365, Google Apps, and Furthering the ability to “right-place” IT resources, Riverbed’s Granite edge virtual server infrastructure decouples storage and compute to allow organizations to centralize even more data for greater cost efficiency and flexibility.

To enable our customers to move seamlessly between cloud venues and meet the scalability and resiliency needs of their users, Riverbed’s Stingray Traffic Manager solutions support application delivery across public and private clouds. As a virtual application delivery controller (ADC) and distributed application firewall, the scalability engine and security can move with the logic of the application, rather than being tied to a physical location or machine. This allows developers and administrators to “right-place” their applications, or parts of their applications, in whichever venue meets their cost, elasticity, and security needs, and evolve with those changing requirements.

Finally, Riverbed’s Whitewater cloud storage gateway simplifies and secures the process of moving backups to cloud storage services. Whitewater gateways translate backup protocols into cloud storage APIs and then deduplicate, encrypt, and accelerate data migrations to cloud storage services, so organizations can take advantage of the operating cost structure of cloud services and gain an offsite location for DR purposes.

Q. Can you please give us a few examples of how these solutions have been successfully implemented by businesses today?

A. Riverbed has over 20,000 customers across a wide range of verticals and varying in size from mid-sized businesses to very large enterprises and governments. But here are a few examples of customers who are realizing greater flexibility in “right-placing” their application workloads and data across private and public cloud venues in an organizationally appropriate mix.

GeoEngineers is a mid-sized engineering consulting firm that used Granite and Steelhead solutions to centralize data and applications into their private data center facilities, which allowed them to eliminate physical hardware across ten remote offices. For companies building their private clouds and looking to improve resource utilization and improve efficiency, being able to relocate data and applications and still meet end user performance needs is critical. With data centralized, GeoEngineers was able to streamline back-up processes and use Whitewater to push back-ups to the public cloud. Like many mid-sized organizations, GeoEngineers isn’t in the business of running multiple data centers, so using the public cloud for an offsite location also improved their disaster recovery capabilities.

Gilt Groupe is an online retailer that offers private sales of luxury brand merchandise. The company uses the natively virtual Stingray Traffic Manager to move to the cloud for greater elasticity to meet huge spikes in web traffic. But the company still uses private data center resources for secure credit card transaction processing. Not only does Stingray Traffic Manager allow them to “right-place” these different workloads seamlessly, but the Stingray Application Firewall supports their PCI DSS compliance.

Dormain Drewitz, Solutions Marketing Manager at Riverbed Technology,  joined Riverbed in 2011 after spending over 5 years as a technology investment analyst, closely following IT software companies. She’s written and commented extensively on technology trends like cloud computing and desktop virtualization. Dormain holds a B. A. in History from the University of California at Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @DormainDrewitz.


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