The first day of Network Field Day 3 wrapped up at the offices of Infineta Systems. Frequent listeners of the Packet Pushers podcast will remember them from Show 60 and Show 62. I was somewhat familiar with their data center optimization technology before the event, but I was interested to see how they did their magic. That desire to see behind the curtains would come back to haunt me.
Infineta was primed to talk to us. They even had a special NFD3 page setup for the streaming video and more information about their solutions. We arrived on site and were ushered into a conference room where we got setup for the ensuing fun.
Haseeb Budhani (@haseebbudhani), Vice President of Products, kicked off the show with a quick overview of Infineta’s WAN optimization product line. Unlike companies like Riverbed or Cisco WAAS, Infineta doesn’t really care about optimizing branch office traffic. Infineta focuses completely on the data center at 10Gbps speeds. Those aren’t office documents, kids. That’s heavy duty data for things like SAN replication, backup and archive jobs, and even scaling out application traffic. Say you’re a customer wanting to do VMDK snapshots across a gigabit WAN link between sites on two different coasts. Infineta allows you to reduce the amount of time that transferring the data takes while at the same time allowing you to better utilize the links. If you’re only seeing 25-30% link utilization in a scenario like this, Infineta can increase that to something on the order of 90%. However, the proof for something like this doesn’t come in a case study on Powerpoint. That means demo time! Here is one place where I think Infineta hit a home run. Their demo was going to take several minutes to compress and transfer data. Rather than waiting for the demo to complete at the end of the presentation and boring the delegates with ever-increasing scrollbars, Infineta kicked off the demo and let it run in the background. That’s great thinking to keep our attention focused on the goods of the solution even while the proof of things is working in the background. While the demo was chugging along in the background, Infineta brought in someone that did something I never thought possible. They found someone that out-nerded Victor Shtrom.
That fine gentleman is Dr. K. V. S. Ramarao (@kvsramarao) or “Ram” as he is affectionately known. He was a professor of Computer Science at Pitt. And he’s ridiculously smart. I jokingly said that I was going to need to go back to college to write this blog post because of all the math that he pulled out in discussion of how Infineta does their WAN optimization. Even watching the video again didn’t help me much. There’s a LOT of algorithmic math going on in this explanation. The good Dr. Ramarao definitely earned his Ph.D if he worked on this. If you are at all interested in the theoretical math behind large-scale data deduplication, you should watch the above video at least three times. Then do me a favor and explain it to me like I was a kindergartner.
The wrap up for Infineta was a bit of reinforcement of the key points that differentiate them from the rest of the market. All in all, a very good presentation and a great way to keep the nerd meter way off the charts.
Data centers in the modern world are increasing the amount of traffic they can produce exponentially. They are no longer bound to a single set of hard disks or a physical memory limit. We also ask a lot more of our servers when we task them with sub-second failover across three or more timezones. Since WAN links are keeping up nearly as fast with the explosion of moving data and the reduction in time that it has to arrive in the proper place, we need to look at how to reduce the data being put on the wire. I think Infineta has done a very good job of fitting into this niche of the market. By basing their product on some pretty solid math, they’ve shown how to scale their solution to provide much better utilization of WAN links while still allowing for magical things like vMotion to happen. I’m going to be keeping a closer eye on Infineta, especially when I find myself in need to migrating a server from Los Angeles to New York in no time flat.
Tech Field Day Disclaimer
Infineta was a sponsor of Network Field Day 3. As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Network Field Day 3. In addition, they provided me a t-shirt, coffee mug, pen, and USB drive containing product information and marketing collateral. They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review/analysis. The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.