There was a recent article on Network Computing regarding the Next Generation Data Center that got me thinking about our SMB target customer and the next generation server room. Both the enterprise and the SMB face the influx of traffic growth described in the article (clearly at different levels, but an influx none-the-less). So how will the SMB cope? How will an IT organization with the limited resources of time and money react? By focusing on Simplicity in the infrastructure.
Elimination of Legacy Storage Protocols through Hypervisor Convergence
There is an ongoing trend to virtualize workloads in the SMB that traditionally meant adding a SAN or a NAS to provide shared storage for high availability. With the introduction of Hypervisor Converged architectures through products like Scale’s HC3, that requirement no longer exists. In this model, end users can take advantage of the benefits of high availability without the complexity that comes with legacy storage protocols like iSCSI or NFS. Not only does this reduce the management overhead of the shared storage, it also simplifies the vendor support model dramatically. In the event of an issue, a single vendor can be called for support with no ability to place the blame on another component in the stack.
Simplicity in Scaling
Moore’s Law continues to hold as better, faster and cheaper equipment becomes available year after year. By implementing a scale-out architecture in the infrastructure, IT organizations can take advantage of this by purchasing what they need today knowing that they can purchase equipment at tomorrow’s prices to scale-out the resources when the need arises. Combined with the ability to mix and match hardware types in a hypervisor converged model also means that users have granularity in their scaling to match the requirements of the workloads at that time (such as adding a storage-only node in HC3 to a compute cluster to scale out only the storage resources). Continue reading →
Converging the hardware and software components needed in an SMB virtualization deployment is a hot trend in the industry. Terms like “converged infrastructure”, “hyper-convergence”, “hypervisor convergence” and “software-defined (fill in the blank)” have all emerged alongside the trend and just as quickly as they were defined, most have lost their meaning from both overuse and misuse.
In this series of blog posts, we will attempt to re-establish these definitions within the framework of the Convergence Continuum below:
Before we address convergence though, let’s set the stage by describing the traditional model of creating a virtualization environment with high availability.
Build Your Own / DIY
This is typically made up of VMware or Hyper-V plus brand name servers (Dell, HP, IBM, etc.) acting as hosts and a SAN or NAS (EMC VNXe, Dell Equallogic, HP Lefthand, NetApp, etc.) networked together to provide redundancy. The DIY architecture is tried and true and effectively offers all of the benefits of single server virtualization such as partitioning, isolation, encapsulation and hardware independence along with High Availability of VMs, when architected correctly. An example architecture might look like:
The downside to this approach is that it is complex to implement and manage. Each layer in the stack adds an added management requirement (virtualization management, SAN/NAS management and Networking Management) as well as an additional vendor in the support environment, which often leads to finger pointing without strict adherence to the hardware compatibility list of each company. This complexity is a burden for those who implement a DIY environment, as it often requires specialized training in one or more of the layers involved. The IT generalist in the mid-market targeted by Scale Computing often relies on a Value Added Reseller to implement and help manage such a solution, which adds to the overall cost of implementing and maintaining.
Monolithic Storage – Single Point of Failure
The architecture above relies on multiple servers and hypervisors having the ability to share a common storage system, which makes that system a critical single point of failure for the entire infrastructure. This is commonly referred to in the industry as 3-2-1 architecture with 1 representing the single shared storage system that all servers and VM’s depend on (also called the inverted pyramid of doom). While “scale-out” storage systems have been available to distribute storage processing and redundancy across multiple independent “nodes”, the hardware cost and additional networking required for scale out storage architectures originally restricted these solutions to very selected applications.
Down the Path of Convergence
Now that we have the basics of the DIY Architecture down, we can now continue down the path of convergence to Reference Architectures and Converged Solutions, which we will define in our next post. Stay tuned for more!
This past week I have been at the MidMarket CIO Forum in beautiful Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. It is a fun event with very intimate boardroom style sessions that give vendors a chance to sit down with CIOs to discuss industry trends, their current problems and our potential solutions. In each of our sessions there was at least one CIO saying something along the lines of, “I see the value of HC3, but I have already invested in VMware. How can you work in my environment?” This is usually in a lamenting tone after we have described the added cost that they likely paid for the licensing, implementation, hardware (SAN/NAS), and training associated with a traditional Do-it-Yourself virtualization deployment. (Side story…one potential customer told us his woes of sending a sysadmin off to a week long VMware training only to have him return to leave for another job weeks later. Ouch!).
Since it came up so often, I thought a quick blog post was warranted in case there are others out there asking the same question.
VMware customers coming to HC3 for their Primary Infrastructure
Many customers come to us having used VMware in the past. Most have implemented VMware in the traditional “inverted pyramid of doom” style (to steal a spiceworks-ism) with a handful of host servers connected down to shared storage through redundant switches. Often they come to us when it is time to refresh either a SAN or NAS or when looking to add a new host into their environment (which can push their VMware licensing cost up significantly as they jump from Essentials Plus or another 3 host package into a more enterprise license). When we talk to potential customers in this situation, it is not uncommon to hear things like “For the price of replacing my SAN, I could have an entire HC3 cluster?” or “For the price of just the licensing, I can put in a new HC3 system?”. There are several examples of this in our customer success stories that I recommend reading through if interested.
VMware customers purchasing HC3 as a Disaster Recovery Site
Customers who have already made a heavy investment in VMware for their primary site, but still want to take advantage of the simplicity and affordability of HC3 still have an option. Instead of purchasing and implementing the same VMware environment that they have in place at their primary site, this group of users can implement an HC3 system along side HC3 Availability to replicate data from their primary site to the HC3 system. In the event of a failure at the primary site, HC3 Availability will detect the failure and can automatically (or manually if you’d rather) bring up those VMs on HC3. Here is a video of Dave Demlow walking through the HC3 Availability product which demonstrates the failover process from VMware to HC3:
We have admittedly seen this approach act as a “trojan horse” where users begin with HC3 as a DR target, but fall in love with the simplicity of adding new highly available VMs. At the time of that next server/SAN refresh cycle, those customers often replace their primary site with HC3 as well.
If you have any questions on making the jump from VMware to HC3, please feel free to reach out to us for more information.
Recently, I sat down with @davidmdavis of www.virtualizationsoftware.com to discuss Scale’s HC3 and the general trend of Hypervisor Convergence. David kept the perspective of a VMware administrator coming to HC3 for the first time, which allowed me to highlight the simplicity of HC3 compared to a traditional VMware virtualization deployment. Hope you enjoy!
Virtualizing Microsoft Exchange is one of the primary use cases that we see for HC3 customers. A general move to virtualizing Exchange has gained traction as companies take the normal cycle of hardware refreshes and Operating System upgrades as an opportunity to consolidate servers in a virtualized environment. These companies seek to take advantage of:
Flexibility in managing unplanned growth (both performance and capacity); and
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 →
There are plenty of articles, reviews, blogs and lab reports available that provide various comparisons of different software, hardware and architectural options for leveraging the benefits of server and storage virtualization.
I’m going to try to tackle the subject through the eyes of a “typical” IT director or manager at a small to mid size business (SMB) … the kind of user that we see a lot of here at Scale Computing, particularly since the launch of our HC3 completely integrated virtualization system that integrates high availability virtualization and storage technologies together into a single easy to manage system. Continue reading →
When infrastructure (server or storage) fails in a traditional, physical environment, there is typically resulting downtime while a complex and lengthy recovery from backups is reconstituted. In most cases, this requires time obtaining and setting up identical replacement hardware, then additional time to recover the operating system, applications and data from the backups. Continue reading →
“Good news everyone!” HC3x has just been announced. For the last few months, we have internally referred to this platform under the code name “MegaFonzie.” Those of you familiar with Futurama probably know that Mega Fonzies are units used to determine how cool someone is (hence the picture of Professor Farnsworth) …and HC3x is off the charts! If your response is, “Balderdash…I’ll be the judge of what’s cool” then grab your cool-o-meter and let’s walk through this new hardware together.
I am excited to announce that Scale has officially moved ICOS 4.2 out of beta and into limited availability (meaning that our support team can upgrade customers for use in a production environment)! The theme for this release was more advanced networking functionality and included features such as:
Support for VLAN tagging
Support for adding multiple network interface cards (NICs) to VMs
Connect or disconnect network interface cards (NICs) on VMs
In the video below, I walk through the simple setup of a VM to VM private network which highlights these features.
For more information on this release, please see the release notes which can be found on the partner portal and customer portal. If you have any questions or would like to see a demo of this new functionality, please give us a call!
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