Category: Industry Topics and News

VMware announces VSAN: Better than a VSA but still a generation behind HC3 with SCRIBE

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The time has finally come!  Well, the time has been here for a while actually.  VMware’s VSAN was just released out of beta and to much fanfare with their “revolutionary” approach of hypervisor convergence.  In reality, the “revolution” began back in August of 2012 when Scale Computing launched HC3 and we’re excited to see our approach validated.  Like HC3, VMware’s VSAN utilizes the local storage attached to each host to create a shared storage pool presented to all participating nodes in the system.  This approach sets VMware’s VSAN and Scale’s HC3 apart from the other competitors in the convergence space who rely on a VSA model that adds an extra layer of complexity to the equation.  That’s about where the similarity ends, so let’s dive in to where we differ.

The Purchasing and Setup Process: HC3 is easier to buy and implement

With VMware’s VSAN, customers are required to select their own servers. In each server, there is a minimum of one internal Solid State Disk (suggested to be at least 10% of the size of the HDDs) and one Hard Drive from VMware’s limited Hardware Compatibility List. With the hardware in hand, it is left to the user to install the ESX hypervisor, install vCenter (and a SQL Database), activate the appropriate features, create a vCenter cluster and activate VSAN as a datastore.  A lot to ask of the IT generalist who is busy trying to put out fires around the office.

HC3 is sold as a fully integrated system. This means that all software licenses are included, with balanced compute and storage hardware, ready to use out of the box, and designed for scale out expansion. HC3 customers are able to go from unboxing to running highly available Virtual Machines in a matter of hours with no prior training on the hypervisor or a SAN/NAS! Continue reading

Financial sector finds value in non-traditional IT

Where does the real genius sit in financial services and insurance (FSI) sector IT? Surely with the enterprise and its strategic CIOs, bankrolled by huge budgets and the freedom to choose any vendor technology they desire? I’m going to say no – look small to find the big thinking.

Our experience tells us that SMBs are smarter and much more strategic in IT planning than big vendors ever give them credit for. To make this more tangible, we tested these observations through research of 200 heads of IT at mid-market organisations by the independent technology market research specialist Vanson Bourne. Continue reading

The Current Virtualization Channel: Breaking Bad or The Sopranos?

I know, it seems like I’m shamelessly pandering to the demise of one of the great shows on TV in any era, the recently completed Breaking Bad on AMC.  I don’t know why I come to these things late, but I do, and then I catch up like a maniac and watch them 3 or 4 a night to get up to date.  I’m currently doing the same now with Breaking Bad and I’m hooked.

OK so which one is more like the current virtualization channel – the Jersey mafia guys or the crystal meth cookers and distributors.  Does VMware have its customers hooked on their vTax or are they more like the mob loan sharks coming back for their interest payments, or “vig”, and keeping their “customers” forever in their debt until they have to turn their businesses over?   Continue reading

HC3 vs VMware vs. Hyper-V for SMBs: Part 5 – Same Challenges, Different Name

This series will now turn towards Microsoft and their SMB virtualization solution which is composed of the Hyper-V hypervisor component, used in conjunction with Windows Failover Clustering plus System Center Virtual Machine Manager as a “manager of managers” over the top of it all  (yes that is three different management console / admin tools already and we haven’t even gotten to shared storage)

But lets back up a little bit first.  My career as a technologist began back in the Novell heyday however I was early to join the Windows NT bandwagon and focused on Windows server technologies throughout the majority of my career.  I always explored and stayed up on other technology alternatives but the majority of time concluded that even if Microsoft didn’t have the “best” technology or the most features, it was or quickly would become “good enough.”  Working for a number of software developers, virtualization was a godsend for testing and customer demonstrations so I had used very early versions of VMware Workstation, Microsoft Virtual PC, you name it.  Needless to say I followed Microsoft’s path into server virtualization with great interest and have continued to watch their battle with VMware and open source virtualization technologies since the early Hyper-V betas.  Quite honestly, for quite a while, I wanted Hyper-V to work so I put up without live migration at first, put up with one VM per drive letter (prior to the introduction of cluster shared volumes which introduce many oddities of their own), I put up with configuring “Failover Clustering” completely outside the Hyper-V manager UI.  I figured eventually Microsoft would “get it right” and build a highly available yet easy to manage virtualization solution that the typical SMB jack of all trades IT administrator could easily manage without weeks of training and that “just works”…  Maybe they got distracted by Azure and “the cloud” or perhaps Apple or Google but if you compare Microsoft virtualization to HC3, they have a very long way to go. Continue reading

HC3 vs VMware vs. Hyper-V for SMBs: Part 4 – A day in the life of a VMware Administrator

At Scale, we have done a lot already to highlight the painfully obvious differences in CAPEX and initial deployment costs between a fully integrated HC3 system and a VMware + Servers + SAN infrastructure.  In this post we want to begin a discussion about what happens after that … how does hyperconvergence help companies and their IT administrators provide better IT services by spending less time babysitting their infrastructure.

So let’s begin…

HC3 was designed to be self managing and self correcting, providing simple “at a glance” confirmation of the systems operational state, overall resource utilization and clear identification of any items that require administrator attention.   HC3 is constantly checking the operational state of all hardware and software components of the system, with the intelligence built in to take automated corrective action and alert the administrator only when attention is required. Continue reading

HC3 vs VMware vs. Hyper-V for SMBs: Part 3 – VMware and the VTAX

VMware clearly is the 800 lb gorilla in the virtualization hypervisor space given their early entry into the market and foothold in large enterprises.  However, since leveraging most of the “advanced” capabilities that VMware provides such as live migration (vmotion) and VM HA failover have required users to purchase and manage external shared storage systems (SAN, NAS or use special virtual storage appliance VMs which I’ll discuss later,) the cost and complexity of a typical VMware based resilient infrastructure has been well beyond what the typical mid market to SMB IT shop could or should spend.  Factoring in the additional administrative requirements and costs such as training and certification brings the TCO (total cost of ownership) even higher.

VMware has attempted to compensate by creating more affordable SMB “starter bundles” that can provide reduced price licensing to entice end users with just a few servers to start.  However, when those customers later expand or update their environment by adding additional compute capacity or when they desire additional features the customers are faced with a large licensing cost increase as they “graduate” to VMware standard or enterprise pricing structures which can double or triple the licensing cost for those initial servers.

But lets start by reviewing some of  the software components you need to license from VMware. Continue reading

A Move from VMware to HC3

Many of Scale’s HC3 customers are coming to us from a traditional Do-It-Yourself virtualization environment where they combined piecemeal parts including VMware’s hypervisor to create a complex solution that provides the high availability expected in their infrastructure.  Fed up with the complexity (or more often the vTax on a licensing renewal) associated with that setup, they eventually find HC3 as a solution to provide the simplicity, scalability and high availability needed at an affordable price.

I just returned from the Midmarket CIO Forum last week where 98% of the CIOs I spoke to had implemented some form of the VMware environment described above (the other 2% were Hyper-V, but the story of vTax still rang true!).  We met with 7 boardrooms full of CIOs who all reacted the same to the demo of HC3: “This sounds too good to be true!”  To which I like to reply, “Yeah, we get that a lot.” 🙂

After the initial shock of seeing HC3 for the first time, pragmatism inevitably takes over.  The questions then became, “How do I migrate from VMware to HC3?” or “How can I use HC3 alongside my existing VMware environment?”   I spent the majority of my week talking through the transition strategies we have seen from some of the 600+ HC3 customers when migrating from VMware to HC3 VMs (V2V process). Continue reading

HC3 vs VMware vs. Hyper-V for SMBs : Part 2

I’ve been hanging out on Spiceworks a lot lately which is a great online community for SMB and mid market IT personnel to share ideas, ask questions and gather opinions.  In fact, the idea for creating this blog series came in large part from seeing the common and repeated questions, concerns and discussions happening on Spiceworks as IT organizations began researching virtualization and/or private cloud.

One common theme I’ve noticed is the widely held notion that the only next “jump” from a simple environment using single server virtualization is to go to a complex cluster of servers for redundancy and shared storage (SAN or NAS).  Then, in order for that storage to not become a new single point of failure there has to be not only storage redundancy (RAID) but storage path redundancy (MPIO, NIC bonding, etc.), and controller redundancy and in some cases even the recognition that multiple storage arrays with synchronous mirroring may be needed to mitigate concerns about the SAN creating a new single point of failure for the entire infrastructure… a complex and expensive vicious circle. Continue reading

Enterprises are Looking to HC3 for Simplicity

We built HC3 to solve a fundamental need in IT:  a system that keeps applications running without all the complexity that’s latched on to infrastructure with bolt-on after bolt-on solution.  We knew this was a problem most acutely felt in midmarket companies, with complex needs but limited resources.  We built HC3 so those midmarket customers could solve that complexity problem.

Now approaching 1,000 deployments of HC3, we’ve been catching the eye of others who also have these same problems.  Large, enterprise accounts that have been entrenched in legacy and monolithic infrastructure for years.

As it turns out, they hate complexity too, and are looking to eliminate the complexity that continues to spiral within their VMware environments, and view HC3 as the next generation of infrastructure, simplified IT. Continue reading

Five Business Reasons Why Developers and Software Ecosystems Benefit from KVM

By: Peter Fuller, Vice President of Business Development and Alliances, Scale Computing

As the VP of Business Development and Alliances for Open Virtual Alliance Member Scale Computing, I work with a diverse group of top players in the software ecosystem. While many have KVM compatible products as full virtual appliances, others are building business cases to justify the minor engineering expense required to develop KVM-compatible versions of their VMware, Citrix or Hyper-V solutions.

This KVM question has isochronously emerged as a discussion point with my business development peers this year. It is not a hard apologetic to form since KVM support is: 1) adopted, 2) supported and crowd sourced, 3) independent, 4) a quickly profitable engineering exercise and 5) freely available.

Let’s take a quick look at the benefits:

(1) KVM is Adopted & Mature

KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) works in the Linux kernel as an open source, free component for Linux on x86 hardware that contains Intel VT or AMD-V extensions. With KVM, multiple unmodified Linux or Windows images can run as virtual machines on a single processor.

KVM is growing at 60% year over year in terms of new server shipments virtualized, with over 100,000 shipments and nonpaid deployments worldwide over the past 12 quarters.1 The worldwide virtual-machine software market was on track to grow to over $3.6 billion in 2012, up from $3.0 billion the year before, a 19.3% year-over-year growth.2

KVM is also the standard for OpenStack. In fact, 71% of OpenStack deployments use KVM.

The technology is also very mature. According to CloudPro, KVM held the top 7 SPECVirt benchmarks, outperforming VMware across 2, 4 and 8 socket servers. As CloudPro mentions, it is very rare that an open source solutions meets so many commercial specifications.3

(2) KVM is Supported & Crowd Sourced

Both IBM and Red Hat announced significant investments in KVM. Unlike VMware, the many results of those investments won’t be locked behind intellectual property laws. The companies are contributing much of its KVM development to the open source community.

This investment was important for Scale, not because we use Red Hat branches of KVM, but because it will undoubtedly attract publishers into the technology and legitimized it as an enterprise-class hypervisor.

The growing ecosystem of KVM supporters is proof. The OVA has over 300 members of software ad hardware vendors, and continues to add to its ranks daily. This collective pool of companies contributes code back to the community, allowing each company indirect access to each other’s open development initiatives. Hundreds of thousands of non-member Linux developers also add to the crowd-sourced technologies that companies like Scale can use. Additionally, the Linux Foundation recently announced that the OVA would become an official collaborative project.

Ecosystem developers benefit from this crowd-sourced adoption of KVM in ways they can’t leverage with commercial solutions like VMware. For starters, commercial virtualization solutions are

(3) KVM is Independent & Adaptive

The independence of KVM contributes to fecundity of its code. Hundreds of thousands of Linux developers around the world develop technologies for Linux and KVM—without restrictions associated with corporate IP protection.

While the permanency of any company is in continual state of ambiguity, corporations are far more labile than un-owned open source code. KVM will be around forever; there’s little risk supporting it.

The biggest challenges to the viability of some hypervisor providers are the open source headwinds wreaking havoc on their financial models. Specialized vendors like VMware don’t have the product diversity outside of their hypervisor that cushion companies like Microsoft and Citrix. As the hypervisor becomes a commodity, revenues are made on the management tools and licensed annually. This stress already pushed VMware to compete with its partners. Just this year, the company released a V-SAN product in direct completion to Nutanix and Simplivity.

(4) KVM is Easily Convertible & Supporting it is Profitable

I like to use a basic supply and demand argument support KVM development: while there’s an infinite supply of a vendor’s code, there will always be a finite supply of a customer’s cash.

To save that finite cash pool, roughly 70 percent of corporations use KVM as a secondary hypervisor to avoid licensing costs for non-production virtual machines. This install base represents a huge market that is quickly migrating KVM to the primary position in order to reduce recurring licensing costs.

Converting is Easy

In most cases, converting from a mainstream hypervisor to KVM is relatively simple. In fact, one of our alliance partners added KVM support to its robust backup software in just a week. The conversion from VMDK to QCOW2 (KVM) is fairly straightforward.

(5) The Hypervisor is a Commodity, Why Pay for It?

Hypervisors are a commodity. With Intel’s VT and AMD’s V chipset, KVM calls directly into the virtualization stack provided by those manufacturers at the chip level. There’s no need to pay license charges for solutions that use software to perform the virtualization tasks Intel and AMD provide in the hardware. A light kernel-based piece of code calling directly into the processor greatly increases the speed and efficiency of the virtualization experience. Additionally, since both Intel and AMD are committed to open technologies and the leverage publishers will get from these two companies is significant.

Conclusion

For ecosystem developers, the value extracted from the community translates into engineering efficiencies, faster feature development and flexibility, potentially millions of dollars in savings on engineering costs, and the ability to maintain price elasticity in a highly competitive ecosystem.

KVM has a large install base, major investors, commercial momentum and crowd-sourced development momentum. Spending a few weeks to add KVM support to existing applications will open new markets for developers while opening the door to new found capital efficiencies and faster development times.

______________

1IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Virtualization Tracker, March 2013

2Worldwide Virtual Machine Software 2012-2016 Forecast, IDC #235379, June 2012

3 http://www.cloudpro.co.uk/iaas/virtualization/5278/kvm-should-it-be-ignored-hypervisor-alternative/page/0/1

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