What is our primary use case?
Our company has 12 locations and needs for servers/storage at each one. We have edge devices at all branch office locations, and our SteelCentral is in our Denver, CO location. All servers run on the virtualization layer on these boxes and are provided SteelFusion disks for syncing with Central. The data is synced to our data center and lives on Nimble storage. From there, we replicate to our other Nimble array located in San Francisco. This allows us to provide edge services while ensuring the data is in one location.
How has it helped my organization?
All services that need to be local to the user exist on local servers. Users run applications and access data locally while the data is constantly being synced to Central, and protected. If an edge device fails, we can recover quickly.
What is most valuable?
Sync to Central and edge protection. These mitigate my risk in our branch offices.
What needs improvement?
Setting up disks for use is a multi-step process that could use some refinement. Setting up a core-to-core replication or DR strategy is also cumbersome.
For how long have I used the solution?
Three to five years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
No real issues with stability. Every once in a while a controller fails and we have to replace it, but the site recovery manager is a pretty sweet tool that works really well.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
No issues with scalability. There are boxes for every size environment. We migrated our SF office from multiple servers to a single SteelFusion box. It was expensive but it works really well.
How are customer service and technical support?
The level of tech support depends on who you get. There are some techs that just read the script and ask you if you’ve rebooted, but once you get past that - or if you have a very technical issue - the support is great. They really know the product and get you up and running again ASAP.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
No previous solution. We replaced traditional servers/backup in offices.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup is both straightforward and complex in certain ways. Doing the controller setup and Virtual Services setup is pretty simple, just follow the steps in the wizard. Once that is complete, however, it does take some planning to right-size disks, apply those to the SteelFusion core, then push those out to the edge for use in the VMs. It is not a complicated process, just a lot of steps.
We also made mistakes with not correctly sizing the volumes and that was a difficult thing to change in the earlier versions of the SteelFusion software.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Price is an issue – this is expensive stuff. My advice is to beat up Riverbed as much as possible on price. These things are expensive and there is room for negotiation.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We did not evaluate other options. There wasn’t much out there five years ago when we started looking.
What other advice do I have?
I rate it nine out of 10. It’s great, but not perfect. I have spoken at conferences in the past on behalf of Riverbed. I do believe strongly in the solution.
Understand your environment, ensure you have good storage in your main data centers, evaluate the product in a real-world environment, not just a test environment. Know that if a controller fails, that set of files will be unavailable until the controller comes back up. So, if you need branch office to branch office file sharing, look into other solutions, like Panzura or Nasuni storage.