Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Riverbed Steel Fusion: A New Approach to Remote Office Infrastructure

Riverbed Steel Fusion: A New Approach to Remote Office Infrastructure  


Approaching the remote office/branch office (ROBO) deployment can be a more complicated task than it originally appears. Many vendors in this space offer a quick deployment, but fail to look deeper into the needs of the business to provide a well rounded solution. How does a business plan for disaster recovery at a remote site? What about offices in foreign countries? Data location and international laws could complicate the ability to protect intellectual property of the business. Enter Riverbed Steel Fusion. Steel Fusion offers administrators simplified ROBO deployments, centralized management, and provides options for problems that could be easily overlooked when planning for remote offices.   

What is the SteelFusion Solution?

SteelFusion is a Software-Defined Edge solution consisting of a two parts: Core and Edge. In the on-premises data center, the SteelFusion Core (a physical appliance or virtual machine) is connected to the SAN or NAS storage. It should be noted that the SteelFusion core can also be linked to AWS or Azure storage components for those with a multi-cloud solution. The SteelFusion Edge appliance is deployed at the remote site. Once the base network configuration is made, the appliance is remotely managed from the Core.

Riverbed's Parimal Puranik white boarding SteelFusion at TFD15

How does SteelFusion differentiate from other ROBO solutions?

SteelFusion separates itself from the pack by keeping corporate data housed in the main data center. With the data on-premises, planning for backup and disaster recovery is simplified to one site. No need to develop a complicated solution encompassing multiple remote offices. Similarly, since data lives in the SAN/NAS, it becomes less vulnerable to foreign data laws. The data required by the ROBO, whether it be files or VM disks, is replicated and cached to the Edge, and changes are written back to the SAN/NAS at the Core.

Aside from passing the data to the remote site, the Edge appliance can also replace traditional compute solutions with Riverbed’s Virtual Services Platform. VSP runs VMware ESXi to on the SteelFusion Edge appliance, eliminating the need for additional hardware.

On paper the solution seems solid, but does it hold up in the real world? The answer appears to be yes. Based on statistics provided by Riverbed in September of 2017, there are over 10,000 appliances deployed across 1,200 customers globally. From experience in my professional life, installation and management is easy. I have encountered a few enterprises in my area currently utilizing SteelFusion, or with plans to implement SteelFusion in 2018. While it may not be a perfect solution for every ROBO use case, SteelFusion is certainly worth investigating.

For a deeper overview of Riverbed’s SteelHead technology, check out their presentation at Tech Field Day 15 Here.

Disclaimer: I was invited to participate as a Tech Field Day Delegate as a guest of Gestalt IT. All expenses, including food, transportation, and hotel were covered by Gestalt IT. I did not receive any compensation to write this post, nor was I requested to write this post. The above post is written of my opinion and not that of Gestalt IT.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

That's a Wrap: An ExploreVM Look Back at 2017

One word comes to mind as I sit here and look back at 2017 and the adventures I've had with the ExploreVM blog/podcast - Growth. I am thankful to be part of a great community that has provided new opportunities, new ventures, and new experiences. I haven't been nearly as productive on the blog/podcast front in November and December of last year due to some personal matters, getting slammed with work, and the holiday. So, let's kick off 2018 with a review of 2017, and a preview of things to come.

Community Recognition


For the second year in a row, I was privileged enough to be part of the VMware vExpert program. I often tell people that just because I am a "vExpert", it doesn't mean that I know everything about VMware. And man is that true when immersed in the vExpert Slack channels or conversating with vExperts at events. I've learned so much from fellow vExperts in the past year that I couldn't begin to thank everyone who's knowledge I've grown from.

I also took a crack at applying for another community program, and to my surprise I was accepted. I was named one of the 150 Nutanix Technology Champions for 2017. What I like about the NTC program is that it is smaller than similar groups which gives individuals a better experience. There are a great group of technologists in the NTC program which have helped me grow my skill set immensely since I joined. Angelo Luciani runs a great program at Nutanix!  

Blogging and Podcasting


As an accompaniment to the blog I've been running for four years, I dove into the world of podcasting. The first season of the ExploreVM podcast launched in February with15 episodes focusing on various topics in the datacenter realm. It's been great to follow the career journey of my guests after their appearance on the show.

In January I will begin recording episodes for Season 2, which I plan on kicking off in February. The goal is to publish an episode every two weeks. I'm looking for guests, so please do not hesitate to reach out on Twitter or drop me an email if you want to appear. I'd like to bring on some new voices and perspectives in the next season. Let's explore the datacenter world together!

On the blog front, 2017 marked my most productive year with 14 posts. The vExpert and Nutanix NTC program provided lots of great access to products and announcements, which in turn lead to numerous posts. With added posts, comes added readership as well. A bit of a humble brag, but saw a 325% increase in hits from EOY 2016 to EOY 2017. If everything I've got lined up works out as planned, including a new website design, 2018 should see the same growth!

As we look forward into 2018, I have several posts lined up as a result of Tech Field Day. As we go forward, I see the ExploreVM blog taking more of an analyst route.. However, that does not mean that my event recaps or technical posts are going away, they will just occur a bit less often. Diving into technologies, learning what makes them work, and figuring out where they fit in the datacenter world has become not only beneficial to my professional life, but a very enjoyable aspect of my writing.

I have also launched a YouTube channel which I will be publishing videos on various topics. I expect these videos will parallel some of the podcasts, or be informative similar to VMUG sessions. This will be a new venture for me into 2018, but all of my previous podcasts are available there currently for review.

One more thought on the content creation front. As growing the blog and podcast is starting to incur some costs, namely hosting, software, and recording equipment, I am considering doing some sponsored content. This would be done in lieu of running ads. I find sponsored content to be less intrusive than ads on sites and podcasts, and when done properly, the posts can have quality content. If your company or product would like to sponsor a post or episode, please email me, or message me on Twitter.

Speaking and Events


The core of my community involvement has always been attending and speaking at VMUG meetings, and 2017 was no different. This year I added Keynote Panel speaker to the resume on top of my usual community sessions. Indianapolis, Chicago, and Wisconsin VMUGs were all gracious enough to allow me to speak at their UserCon's this past year. I take so much joy in giving back to the community that has helped my career explode. 

If you have never spoken at a VMUG meeting, please consider doing so. Community generated content is always in demand. Many people out in the vCommunity, myself included, are more than willing to coach you on your session. Like I mentioned before, everyone has useful experience, don't be afraid to share. 

This year had two new speaking firsts. March led off with a pre-recorded webinar that was sponsored by Intel and Nutanix. The recording experience was a touch nerve racking as I had no idea how I looked or sounded until the webinar aired. That being said, I would absolutely do it again. Community involvement led to speaking at two conferences during the summer of 2017. 

My final event for 2017 was an invitation to Tech Field Day 15 in San Jose, California. What's unique about the TFD15 experience versus my other events for the year is that the delegates get to grill the vendors and learn about products rather than having to speak on a topic. We were either  brought to the offices of the vendor, or they came to our location, and we were granted access to everyone from engineers to CEOs. While I am slipping a bit in the timeliness department, look for blog posts about these vendors in the coming weeks. Outside of the Tech, I got to meet, chat with, and learn some amazing folks in our industry. They certainly lit a fire underneath me to do more with myself after spending just a few days in their company. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get on to writing other blog posts and working on the website redesign. One last bit of info, I've included some of my goals for 2018, as well as some blog and podcast stats for last year. 

Goals for 2018

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate & Professional
  • VMware VCIX
  • Attend/speak at 3 conferences
  • Speak at a VMUG in a state that I have not spoken in before
  • Hit 2000 Twitter followers (currently at 940)

Podcast Stats

  • Number of Podcast Downloads: 1149
  • Number of Plays on 288
  • Listeners on 5 Continents 

Top 3 Downloaded Episodes

  1. Making the Move to a Pre-Sales Role / VMware 101 (tie)
  2. IT User Groups
  3. Microsoft Azure

Top 3 Played Episodes (on the blog)

  1. A VCDX Discussion
  2. Making the Move to a Pre-Sales Role
  3. On-Premises Datacenter is Dead, Long Live On-Premises Datacenter

Blog Stats

  • 325% increase in views in 2017
  • Readers From 6 Continents 

I hope everyone had a great holiday, and has an amazing 2018. I welcome any feedback on my previous posts, podcasts, or any of the upcoming ideas I've mentioned in this blog. And as always, if you'd like to be a guest or have an idea for an episode of the ExploreVM podcast, reach out to me on Twitter, Facebook, or Email.