Edge-VSI: The Next Phase Of Consolidated IT

The next phase of consolidated-IT has hit the scene and it’s called edge virtual server infrastructure, aka edge-VSI. It’s a lot like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) but meant to help IT centralise and consolidate servers and storage from edge locations to the data center, yet project these resources to the edge of the enterprise as if it were local.

Not only is the expense of managing physical hardware at the edge now eliminated, users can quickly read and write to data managed thousands of miles away. Lets put this into context. Despite the success of massive consolidation initiatives enabled by server and storage virtualisation and wide area network (WAN) optimisation technologies, most businesses still maintain serverand storage infrastructure in remote and branch locations.

Why? When you peel back the onion what you find is that while most businesses would like to centralise all of their IT infrastructure into a few data centers, the reality is that the demands of custom and write-intensive applications, the need to work with large data-sets that defy acceleration over a WAN, and the concern of user productivity in the face of WAN outages have required compute and storage resources to be maintained at the edge.

The deployment of storage and servers closer to users solves availability and performance challenges, but managing infrastructure at the edge comes at a cost, increasing the IT support burden and introducing risk to valuable corporate data assets managed outside the four walls of the data center. IT leaders are left with some major concerns to deal with including security and protection of data as well as the general availability of the resources needed by the edge location.

Given the necessity in these distributed business environments to utilise local applications, it would seem that complete consolidation to the data center is a pipe dream. It is in the midst of these seemingly unsolvable scenarios that innovation is typically born, as is the case with edge-VSI.

Again, edge-VSI decouples storage from its server, enabling virtualised servers, applications, and data to be brought back to the data center, yet be projected back out to edge locations where compute resources deliver application performance as if the storage is still local to the server – even over thousands of miles.

In other words, edge-VSI brings organisations one step closer to a stateless branch office architecture where application performance is local for all transactions yet IT is able to manage, backup, provision, patch, expand, and protect the virtual servers and data within the four walls of the data center.

But edge-VSI is more than simply projecting centralised data over long distance. It provides predictive intelligence to transfer storage blocks from the data center to the edge in a way that enables seamless performance – just as it was with local disk.

As users interact with applications and create new data at edge locations, the solution acknowledges data writes locally and accelerates the transfer back to the data center across the WAN. Similarly, applications at the edge can continue to operate locally without delay even in the event of a link outage, ensuring that all data is sent to the data center seamlessly when the link is re-established.

How this approach works is fairly straightforward. An organisation begins by virtualising edge servers required in the branch and migrating them back to the data center. An appliance in the data center projects these centralised resources to the edge where an edge appliance presents the resources locally, including the ability to boot across the WAN.

This means that for the first time, organisations are able to fully utilise data center-class resources, including storage, backup and recovery, and management tools, yet still meets the performance requirements of applications and end users in their remote locations.

The analogy with VDI continues when looking at the benefits of edge-VSI:

  • Complete data consolidation – Organisations can completely centralise edge servers, applications, and data, yet deliver services with local performance wherever needed
  • Security and control – IT gains control over valuable corporate assets that were once distributed in far-flung locations and exposed to risk
  • Management – Support and management overhead for edge sites is reduced as server and data management activities can take place in the data center. Remote IT personnel or “fly and fix” missions are no longer required
  • Data protection – Edge data is now protected in the datacenter where IT departments can leverage the same tools and practices that are applied to all corporate data, eliminating the need to purchase, install, and manage a branch office backup solution
  • Reduced downtime – Data is protected more frequently, enabling improved recovery points. With accelerated access across the WAN, recovery times are also improved because it is no longer necessary to perform complex and time-consuming data recoveries to restore service to branch offices. Data safely available in the data center is streamed to the local branch as needed.

Where the similarities end between edge-VSI and VDI, however, is that the total cost of ownership with this new approach is proving to be 20 to 50 percent lower compared to business-as-usual approaches of managing edge IT infrastructure. This is very good news for organisations that are looking to centralise, consolidate, and control more of their global IT infrastructure.

Eric Carter is currently a senior product marketing manager for WAN optimisation and edge virtual server infrastructure products at Riverbed Technology. He has over 15 years of experience in enterprise technology solutions including data storage, backup and recovery, and document management. Before joining Riverbed, Eric held roles in marketing and sales for several companies including EMC and Legato Systems. Eric has a B.A. in Public Relations from Pepperdine University.