Cisco joins the HCI club

This week Cisco has introduced their Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution called HyperFlex (aka the HX Data Platform). The solution is a combination of Cisco UCS hardware (both server and networking components), VMware vSphere software as the hypervisor layer and the Springpath Data Platform software as the (converged) storage layer.

The latter is a relatively new player in the HCI market and only recently came out of stealth (I wrote about it last year). Since currently the Springpath software only supports VMware, both HX models that were announced come with ESXi pre-installed. In the future Springpath is expected to also support other hypervisors (Hyper-V and KVM were already mentioned), so probably other HX models will be available in the future as well.

Although based on the existing UCS hardware, the Cisco HyperFlex solution exists only as a completely pre-configured system. It is not possible to “build-you-own” HyperFlex system. Of course with a combination of Cisco UCS, VMware vSphere and Springpath you can create a system that is very similar to the pre-built configurations, but the advantage of the  Cisco HyperFlex solution is that you only need to deal with a single support contact. Also by only supporting the pre-built configuration Cisco is better able to guarantee performance levels. This approach looks similar to Nutanix, which basically is a software product, but only sells it as a solution packaged with server and storage components.

Cisco differentiates itself however by also including the networking stack into the solution. Again this is mainly an advantage with regard to ease of support, as I guess that in many environments where HCI is installed, the networking part is also taken care of by Cisco components.

Read moreCisco joins the HCI club

VMware Virtual SAN Announcements

This week was an exciting week for VMware Virtual SAN enthusiasts (of which I am one). I’m looking forward to checking out the new features and functions as they become available with version 6.2 (VMware stated this would be by the end of the quarter). With these features the Virtual SAN solution becomes quite a mature storage solution comparable in feature set with many traditional (SAN/NAS) midrange storage systems. Among the features that will become available with the core product are :

  • Checksumming … making data integrity more robust
  • IOPS limits per object … improving Storage based QoS
  • Deploying thin swap objects … decreasing the overhead required for swapping (which you would want to prevent anyway)
  • Improved Virtual SAN management capabilities in the WebClient … removing the need for additional (RVC based) tools

Read moreVMware Virtual SAN Announcements

Springpath Hyperconverged Infrastructure

HyperConverged Infrastructure (HCI) is a hot topic these days. It’s promise is increased flexibility (agility) and scalability at a lower cost than infrastructures based on traditional shared storage (SAN/NAS) while retaining the functionality that we have become accustomed to (like snapshots, cloning and replication) and supporting most enterprise application environments.
Creating a hyperconverged infrastructure can be achieved very easily with the building block concept of companies like Nutanix and Simplivity. You can start very simple by creating a cluster of (usually) only 3 nodes and gradually increase the size of your infrastructure when required by simply adding nodes to the existing environment. The potential disadvantage of this (hardware) appliance-based approach is that you are usually limited in your choice of appliance configuration (amount of CPU, memory and type/capacity of storage devices). This means that you could end up with an infrastructure with too much CPU, too much memory or too much storage capacity (so too much investment …).