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What to look for in converged infrastructure for branch offices

Raj Mallempati, VP of Product Marketing for Riverbed | Oct. 31, 2013
Many organizations have been consolidating data centre resources to drive efficiency and save money, and some are now poised to continue that push in branch locations using converged infrastructure to combine compute resources, network control, and storage delivery in a single scale-out unit that reduces hardware and eases management and maintenance.

* Troubleshooting support:  When issues arise and there's no local IT staff, that's a problem. You need a way to capture and analyze packets remotely through the converged infrastructure. With monitoring support built into converged branch infrastructure, IT can see right away when performance at the edge is suffering.

* Storage delivery: The big gotcha with centralized storage is that user experience at remote offices often suffers. Storage delivery technology addresses this problem by enabling fast access to centralized data and eliminating the need for branch backups.  Storage delivery acts like a vacuum cleaner on a company's storage units in the data center, pulling data out to the branch quickly and pushing local updates back to the SAN. In the event of network outages, storage delivery units maintain some data locally. Once the network is back online, a quick reboot of the branch server restores connections to the centralized data.

* Stream splitting: If your company is a frequent user of video streaming, for company-wide meetings or mandated training for instance, look into stream splitting to lighten the load on the network. Research shows that business video traffic may double in the next few years. Don't leave your branch locations out of the loop because your network can't handle video streaming over long distances.

* Quality of Service (QoS): VoIP, Web apps, video streaming, and enterprise database applications all have different requirements and place unique demands on the network. To ensure a predictable user experience and prioritize infrastructure resources according an application's importance, you'll need the ability to classify applications and allocate bandwidth automatically with predefined policies.  QoS helps deliver consistent performance to branch users while ensuring high availability, which is particularly important for business-critical and latency-sensitive applications, like ERP systems, voice, and VDI.

* Network Path selection: With the accelerated adoption of hybrid networks globally, IT must be able to effectively route traffic across different public and private, MPLS networks. Network Path selection technology enables IT administrators to cost effectively and reliably manage application performance across hybrid networks. This requires classifying applications according to business priority and resource consumption, such as bandwidth use and defining the optimal network path for applications including backup paths for high availability. Path selection technology also monitors the network connections for performance and provides failover mechanisms when network links are down.

That's a long list of things to look for in branch converged infrastructure, but the ever-increasing diversity of applications and networks requires more sophisticated capabilities at the edge of networks.

The common theme here is striking a balance between making it really simple and cost-effective to operate IT in remote locations, while still providing users with the performance that they need.


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