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Taking virtualisation to the edge

22 Nov 2012

Edge virtual server infrastructure is a new market ripe for the picking, says Ian Raper, Riverbed Technology managing director, ANZ.

The health and maturity of New Zealand’s virtualisation market has left some analysts questioning what will be the next growth area.

According to IDC more than 40% of New Zealand organisations are already using some form of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), with another 34.8% planning to adopt in the future.

While there’s still some life left in the market, we can expect opportunities for channel sales to slow as the market nears saturation.

The good news is there’s a new market about to open up, and the smart players are already jostling for starting positions.

Edge virtual server infrastructure (edge-VSI), while similar to VDI, is designed to centralise and consolidate servers and storage from edge locations to the data centre, projecting user resources to the edge of the enterprise as if they were local.

Let’s face it; despite the huge success and obvious benefits of virtualisation coupled with wide area network (WAN) optimisation technology, most organisations still invest in remote branches and their associated infrastructure.

At the edge

While most businesses would like to centralise their IT infrastructure into as few data centres or operational offices as possible, the reality is that with exponentially growing volumes of data, and the demands of custom and write-intensive applications, the need to work with large data sets has required computing and storage resources to be maintained at the edge.

Moving infrastructure closer to users clears the hurdles of availability and performance, but managing infrastructure at the edge comes at a cost: increased IT support, and risk to corporate data stored outside the ‘four walls’.

Your customers are then left with the additional headaches of increasing security and performance enhancements to ensure optimal productivity for remote staff.

Since remote offices often have to rely on local applications, complete consolidation to the data centre is unlikely. And therein lies the rub – or opportunity – for the next growth spurt.

Eliminate expense of maintaining physical hardware

Edge-VSI makes reading and writing to data stores thousands of kilometres away as seamless as if they were local, eliminating the expense of maintaining physical hardware at the edge.

Edge-VSI decouples storage from the server, allowing virtualised servers, applications and data to be brought back to the data centre and projected back out to edge locations. Local resources then take over, delivering local application performance despite the distances covered.

It essentially brings organisations one step closer to a stateless branch office architecture where application performance is local for all transactions while IT is able to manage, backup, provision, patch, expand and protect virtual servers and data in the centralised data centre.

But edge-VSI is more than simply long-distance data projection. It provides predictive intelligence to transfer storage blocks from the data centre to the edge in a way that enables seamless performance – just as it did with VDI.

In other words, as remote users interact with applications and create new data, edge-VSI acknowledges data writes locally and accelerates the transfer back to the data centre across the WAN.

With built-in redundancy, applications at the edge can continue to operate locally without delay even in the event of a link outage, ensuring that all data is seamlessly synchronised with the data centre when a link is re-established.

From a channel re-training perspective, the similarities between edge-VSI and the current state of play in the virtualisation and WAN optimisation markets mean the learning curve is gentle and the upsell opportunities high.Use data center resources fully

That’s because the approach is fairly straightforward. You start by virtualising your client’s edge servers in the branch and migrating them back to the data centre.

An appliance in the data centre projects these centralised resources back to the edge, where an edge appliance presents the resources locally, including remote accessibility and functionality such as booting across the WAN.

Your pitch here is simple: for the first time, your clients are able to fully use their data centre resources, including storage, backup and recovery, and management tools, and yet still meet their edge users’ performance requirements.

Centralise, consolidate and control more

The total cost of ownership of edge-VSI is proving to be 20% to 50% less compared with business-as-usual approaches of managing edge IT infrastructure. This makes it very different when compared to VDI in at least one respect – price and performance.

Of course that’s good news for your clients, especially if they’re wanting to centralise, consolidate, and control more of their national IT infrastructure, or deploy global or cloud-based resources.

There are numerous resources available to help you determine how applicable edge-VSI will become to your business. What’s certain is that, while the VDI market has hit top gear, edge-VSI is only now starting to rev up its engines.

Now is the time to get on, get educated and get selling, or be left behind.