Riverbed testing iSCSI optimisation for cloud computing

Riverbed working to optimise iSCSI performance over wide area networks, to boost storage systems’ performance in cloud computing rigs.

Riverbed’s efforts to update its WAN optimisation devices to meet the needs of cloud computing users is taking the vendor down a path of exploring how it can extract better performance from the iSCSI protocol over the WAN.

“iSCSI is written as a LAN protocol,” says Riverbed’s Senior Sales Engineer Damien Murphy. “It expects the storage to be right next door,” and therefore generates a lot of traffic between storage device users of data. While this behaviour is tolerable on a LAN, extra traffic on a WAN is more expensive and, in the case of cloud computing and the very long physical journeys for data, it leaves iSCSI storage vulnerable to slower access times that reduces the benefits of a move to the cloud.

Murphy thinks iSCSI’s limitations can be overcome be aware if “we are aware of the nature of the protocol and not send all those packets back and forth.” Riverbed has therefore investigated how to optimise iSCSI traffic and has conducted limited demonstrations of its efforts and deployed some of them to Amazon Web Services’ EC2 and S3 services for evaluation.

“We are working with Fortune 100 customers and very large organisations on this globally,” Murphy says. “It is very similar to when Riverbed was working with its first Steelhead WAN optimisation appliances. We got together with global banks and the like and asked them what they need this to do.”

Murphy says Riverbed expects some of these features will appear in products that begin shipping in 2010.

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