Posted by: s002spa | December 29, 2010

Riverbed – How Do I Love Thee?

As an IT professional there is nothing I value more than a product that *just works*. I’ve worked in the field long enough to recognize that there are very few products of this caliber to be found. The sad truth is that many products are hard-pressed to deliver on the lofty promises found within the pages of their marketing literature.

This is what makes my recent experience with Riverbed Technology’s Steelhead appliances truly amazing.

For the unfamiliar, Riverbed Technology’s Steelhead appliances are WAN optimization devices. The appliances optimize WAN traffic by deduplicating the data packets that pass through them.  It is tempting to conclude that the appliances are simply caching data.  Mention this to a Riverbed employee, and they will go to great lengths to explain why this conclusion is not technically accurate.

Semantics and marketing lingo aside, whatever these appliances are doing behind the curtain they do it EXTREMELY well!  Check out the following screenshots and I believe you’ll agree.

Let’s break down the performance numbers from the second screenshot.  Total Data Reduction for past month = 94%.  Allow me to repeat that for clarity.  Ninety.  Four.  Percent.  I was effectively spared from having to transmit over 1TB of data across the WAN.  Simply amazing!!!

It’s not hard to imagine how these appliances can be leveraged to tackle some formerly *impossible* tasks in your environment.  As an example, I can now accommodate full nightly backups of a remote site across the WAN to our corporate datacenter.  Prior to installing the appliances this task could only be completed once a week.  Check out the following screenshots for a before and after comparison.

The appliances are also capable of hosting VMware guests.  This is an add-on feature and it does have some minor limitations.  The limitations did not prevent me from leveraging this feature at remote sites to replace some aging server infrastructure.

Suffice it to say that I simply love these appliances!  They have increased the effective bandwidth between our remote sites and made our internal customers happier by improving the performance of critical applications.  All of this with no infrastructure or application changes and very little configuration or tuning.

Thank you Riverbed, for delivering a product that *just works*.

Posted by: s002spa | June 2, 2009

VMware vSphere – Building a Lab on the Cheap!

With the release of VMware’s vSphere I decided it was finally time for me to invest in a home lab.  As an IT consultant specializing in Server & Storage Infrastructure it was simply a need that I could no longer overlook.

I rationalized that building a lab based on VMware vSphere would enable me to:

  1. Tinker with hardware…something that I *love* to do but simply don’t do often enough.
  2. Tinker with software…most notably the ever-growing stack of CDs/DVDs obtained via my Microsoft Action Pack Subscription.
  3. Spend money!

A quick check of server prices on both the HP and Dell websites gave me pause.  While I had both time and cash available to invest in building a home lab, I decided that I simply wasn’t willing to invest *that much* of my cash.

Convinced that there *had* to be some cheaper alternatives for the hardware, I turned my eye to, and set about compiling a parts list to build my own server.

I spent several hours reading product reviews at in addition to articles from like-minded folks and finally settled upon the following list of components:

Admittedly the list was motivated in part by the simple fact that there was a MicroCenter within 15 minutes of my door that had all of the items in stock.  Bonus!  With credit card in hand I set out for the store that I love to hate.  I collected the parts and made my way to the register for checkout.

Final total = $429.95 + tax

I am also eligible for a $30 rebate from Corsair which brings the total system cost to $399.95 + tax!!!

For those of you still reading, I’m sure you noticed that my parts list does not include storage of any sort.  That is because I plan to load ESXi from a USB flash drive.

With the ESXi server built, my next task is to build a small, dedicated NAS server that will be used to host an NFS Datastore.  In the meantime, I loaded a spare sATA disk into the server and created a local VMFS Datastore via the vSphere client.