Hyperconverged infrastructure is the buzzphrase of the moment, and Riverbed's decided it wants some of that buzz by decreeing thath the fourth iteration of its SteelFusion appliances are, indeed, hyperconverged.
SteelFusion is a server and WAN optimisation box in one package. The idea is to put the smaller versions of the box at the edge of a network – say in a branch office – and bigger ones in your data centre.
Data synchronises between the edge and the core, but the boxes have enough grunt to run a decent app out on the edge inside a virtual machine. Apps on the edge point at LUNs in the data centre, and those LUNs reside on whatever storage array you fancy.
WAN optimisation, a Riverbed speciality, makes the arrangement tolerable from the latency point of view.
SteelFusion 4.0, announced today, advances this argument by adding ESXi to the mix, so that edge locations can now operate virtual machines on bare metal instead of pfaffing about with operating systems to host hypervisors. Core counts out at the edge now rise to twenty, and they're all Ivy Bridge cores if you're willing to pay. RAM can rise to 256GB, which means more VMs and faster everything.
There's also a dedicated server for WAN optimisation, so that servers running apps are no longer asked to lend a few cycles to networking duties.
Storage is now tiered, with flash in the box so that frequently-accessed data gets in users' faces faster. Tiering also helps with data synchronisation: the stuff that edge users really want is shuttled to remote SteelFusions and popped on the right medium. Other stuff stays back on the LUN in the data centre. It's also possible to do file and print services at the edge, with local storage doing the heavy lifting.
Failover can now span two data centres: if your core SteelFusion rig goes down, flick the switch to another in second bit barn. Or to a virtual SteelFusion in a cloud.
SteelFusion remains a decent way to do branch office IT. Whether it is hyperconvergence as the likes of Nutanix, VMware or Simplivity define it is another matter. That gang of three probably don't care: they're going after the data centre core while Riverbed's playing at the edges.
So if someone decides to pop some SteelFusions at the edge and run up a virtual SteelFusion core on an EVO:RAIL or Nutanix box, everyone wins. See? Hyperconvergence can solve everything. ®