Tag Archives: hyperconvergence

New! – Premium Installation Service

2017 is here. We want to help you start your new year and your new HC3 system with our new ScaleCare Premium Installation service. You’ve probably already heard about how easy HC3 is to install and manage, and you might be asking why you would even need this service. The truth is that you want your install to go seamlessly and to have full working knowledge of your HC3 system right out of the gate, and that is what this service is all about.

First, this premium installation service assists you with every aspect of installation starting with planning, prerequisites, virtual and physical networking configuration, and priority scheduling. You get help even before you unbox your HC3 system to prepare for a worry-free install. The priority scheduling helps you plan your install around your own schedule, which we know can be both busy and complex.

Secondly, ScaleCare Premium Installation includes remote installation with a ScaleCare Technical Support Engineer. This remote install includes a UI overview and setup assistance and if applicable, a walkthrough of HC3 Move software for workload migrations to HC3 of any physical or virtual servers. Remote installation means a ScaleCare engineer is with you every step of the way as you install and configure your HC3 system.

Finally, ScaleCare Premium Installation includes deep dive training of everything HC3 with a dedicated ScaleCare Technical Support Engineer. This training, which normally takes around 4 hours to complete, will make you an HC3 expert on everything from virtualization, networking, backup/DR, to our patented SCRIBE storage system. You’ll basically be a PHD of HC3 by the time you are done with the install.

Here is the list of everything included:

  • Requirements and Planning Pre-Installation Call
  • Virtual and Physical Networking Planning and Deployment Assistance
  • Priority Scheduling for Installations
  • Remote Installation with a ScaleCare Technical Support Engineer
  • UI Overview and Setup Assistance
  • Walkthrough of HC3 Move software for migrations to HC3 of a Windows physical or virtual server
  • Training with a dedicated ScaleCare Technical Support Engineer
    • HC3 and Scribe Overview
    • HC3 Configuration Deep Dive
    • Virtualization Best Practices
    • Networking Best Practices
    • Backup / DR Best Practices

Yes, it is still just as easy to use and simple to deploy as ever, but giving yourself a head start in mastering this technology seems like a no-brainer. To find out more about how to get ScaleCare Premium Installation added to your HC3 order, contact your Scale Computing representative. We look forward to providing you with this service!

Scale Computing – A Year in Review 2016

It’s that time of the year again. December is winding to a close and the new year is almost here. Let me first say that we here at Scale Computing hope 2016 was a positive year for you and we want to wish you a wonderful 2017. Now, though, I’d like to reflect back on 2016 and why it has been such an outstanding year for Scale Computing.

“And the award goes to…”

Scale Computing was recognized a number of times this year for technology innovation and great products and solutions, particularly in the midmarket. We won awards at both the Midsize Enterprise Summit and the Midmarket CIO Forum, including Best in Show and Best Midmarket Strategy. Most recently, Scale Computing was honored with an Editor’s Choice Award by Virtualization Review as one of the most-liked products of the year. You can read more about our many awards in 2016 in this press release.

Scenes from the 2016 Midsize Enterprise Summit

 

News Flash!

2016 was the year Scale Computing finally introduced flash storage into our hyperconverged appliances. Flash storage  has been around for awhile now but the big news was in how we integrated it into the virtualization infrastructure. We didn’t use any clunky VSA models with resource-hogging virtual appliances. We didn’t implement it as a cache to make up for inefficient storage architecture. We implemented flash storage as a full storage tier embedded directly into the hypervisor. We eliminated all the unnecessary storage protocols that slow down other flash implementations. In short, we did it the right way. Oh, and we delivered it with our own intelligent automated tiering engine called HEAT. You can read more about it here in case you missed it.

Newer, Stronger, Faster

When we introduced the new flash storage in the HC3, we introduced three new HC3 appliance models, the HC1150, HC2150, and HC4150–significantly increasing speed and capacity in the HC3. We also introduced the new HC1100 appliance to replace the older HC1000 model, resulting in a resource capacity increase of nearly double over the HC1000. Finally, we recently announced the preview of our new HC1150D that doubles the compute over the HC1150 and introduces a higher capacity with support of 8TB drives. We know your resource and capacity needs grow overtime and we’ll keep improving the HC3 to stay ahead of the game. Look for more exciting announcements along these lines in 2017.

Going Solo

In 2016, hyperconvergence with Scale Computing HC3 was opened up to all sorts of new possibilities including the new Single Node Appliance Configuration. Where before you needed at least three nodes in an HC3 cluster, now you can go with the SNAC-size HC3. (Yes, I am in marketing and I make up this corny stuff). The Single Node allows extremely cost effective configurations that include distributed enterprise (small remote/branch offices), backup/disaster recovery, or just the small “s” businesses in the SMB. Read more about the possibilities here.

 

Cloud-based DR? Check

2016 was also the year Scale Computing rolled out a cloud-based disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) offering called ScaleCare Remote Recovery Service. This is an exclusive DR solution for HC3 customers that want to protect their HC3 workloads in a secure, hosted facility for backup and disaster recovery. With per-monthly billing, this service is perfect for organizations that can’t or don’t want to host DR in their own facilities and who value the added services like assisted recovery and DR testing. Read more about this DRaaS solution here.

Better Together

2016 has been an amazing year for technology partnerships at Scale Computing. You may have seen some of the various announcements we’ve made the past year. These include Workspot whom we’ve partnered with for an amazingly simple VDI solution, Information Builders whom we partnered with for a business intelligence and analytics appliance, Brocade who we’ve most recently joined in the Brocade Strategic Collaboration Program to expand the reach of hyperconvergence and HC3, and more. We even achieved Citrix Ready certification this year. Keep an eye out for more announcements to come as we identify more great solutions to offer you.

The Doctor is In

It wouldn’t be much of a new year celebration without a little tooting of my own horn, so I thought I’d mention that 2016 was the year I personally joined Scale Computing, along with many other new faces. Scale Computing has been growing this year. I haven’t properly introduced myself in a blog yet so here it goes. My name is David Paquette, Product Marketing Manager at Scale Computing, and they call me Doctor P around here (or Dr. P for short). It has been a fantastic year for me having joined such a great organization in Scale Computing and I am looking forward to an amazing 2017.  Keep checking our blog for my latest posts.  

Just me, Dr. P

 

Sincerely, from all of us at Scale Computing, thank you so much for all of the support over the past year. We look forward to another big year of announcements and releases to come. Of course, these were just some of the 2016 highlights, so feel free to look back through the various blog posts and press releases for all of the 2016 news.

Happy New Year!

What do DDOS Attacks Mean for Cloud Users?

Last Friday, a DDOS attack disrupted major parts of the internet in both North America and Europe. The attacks seems largely targeted on DNS provider Dyn disrupting access to major service providers such as Level 3, Zendesk, Okta, Github, Paypal, and more, according to sources like Gizmodo. This kind of botnet-driven DDOS attack is a harbinger of future attacks that can be carried out over an increasingly connected device world based on the Internet of Things (IoT) and poorly secured devices.

level3_outage_oct2016_downdetector_800b

This disruption highlights a particular vulnerability to businesses that have chosen to rely on cloud-based services like IaaS, SaaS, or PaaS. The ability to connect to these services is critical to business operations and even though the service may be running, if users cannot connect, it is considered downtime.  What is particularly scary about these attacks for small and midmarket organizations especially, is that they become victims of circumstance from attacks directed at larger targets.

As the IoT becomes more of a reality, with more and more devices of questionable security joining the internet, the potential for these attacks and their severity can increase. I recently wrote about how to compare cloud computing and on-prem hypercoverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions, and one of the decision points was reliance on the internet. So it is not only a matter of ensuring a stable internet provider, but also the stability of the internet in general with the possibility of attacks targeting a number of different services.

Organizations running services on-prem were not affected by this attack because it did not affect any internal network environments. Choosing to run infrastructure and services internally definitely mitigates the risk of outage from external forces like collateral damage from attacks on service providers. Many organizations that choose cloud services do so for simplicity and convenience because traditional IT infrastructure, even with virtualization, is complex and can be difficult to implement, particularly for small and midsize organizations. It has only been recently that hyperconverged infrastructure has made on-prem infrastructure as simple to use as the cloud.

The future is still uncertain on how organizations will ultimately balance their IT infrastructure between on-prem and cloud in what is loosely called hybrid cloud. Likely it will simply continue to evolve continuously with more emerging technology. At the moment, however, organizations have the choice of easy-to-use hyperconverged infrastructure for increased security and stability, or choose to go with cloud providers for complete hands-off management and third party reliance.

As I mentioned in my cloud vs. HCI article, there are valid reasons to go with either and the solution may likely be a combination of the two. Organizations should be aware that on-prem IT infrastructure no longer needs to be the complicated mess of server vendors, storage vendors, hypervisor vendors, and DR solution vendors. Hyperconverged infrastructure is a viable option for organizations of any size to keep services on-prem, stable, and secure against collateral DDOS damage.

Screenshot 2016-07-13 09.34.07

IT Infrastructure: Deploy. Integrate. Repeat.

Have you ever wondered if you are stuck in an IT infrastructure loop, continuously deploying the same types of components and integrating them into an overall infrastructure architecture? Servers for CPU and RAM, storage appliances, hypervisor software, and disaster recovery software/appliances are just some of the different components that you’ve put together from different vendors to create your IT infrastructure.mobius

This model of infrastructure design, combining components from different vendors, has been around for at least a couple decades. Virtualization has reduced the hardware footprint but it added one more component, the hypervisor, to the overall mix. As these component technologies like compute and storage have evolved within the rise of virtualization, they have been modified to function but have not necessarily been optimized for efficiency.

Take storage for example.  SANs were an obvious fit for virtualization early on. However, layers of inefficient storage protocols and virtual storage appliances that combined the SAN with virtualization were not efficient. If not for SSD storage, the performance of these systems would be unacceptable at best. But IT continues to implement these architectures because it has been done this way for so long, regardless of the inherent inefficiencies. Luckily, the next generation of infrastructure has arrived in the form of hyperconvergence to break this routine.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) combines compute, storage, virtualization, and even disaster recovery into a single appliance that can be clustered for high availability.  No more purchasing all of the components separately from different vendors, no more making sure all of the components are compatible, and no more dealing with support and maintenance from multiple vendors on different schedules.

Not all HCI systems are equal, though, as some still adhere to some separate components.  Some use third party hypervisors that require separate licensing. Some still adhere to SAN architectures that require virtual storage appliances (VSAs) or other inefficient storage architectures requiring excessive resource overhead and require SSD storage for caching to overcome inefficiencies.

Not only does HCI reduce vendor management and complexity but when done correctly,  embeds storage  in the hypervisor and offers it as a direct attached, block access storage system to VM workloads. This significantly improves the I/O performance of storage for virtualization. This architecture provides excellent performance for spinning disk so when SSD is added as a second storage tier, the storage performance is greatly improved.  Also, because the storage is including in the appliance, it eliminates managing a separate SAN appliance.

HCI goes even further in simplifying IT infrastructure to allow management of the whole system from a single interface.  Because the architecture is managed as a single unit and prevalidated, there is no effort spent making sure the various components work together. When the system is truly hyperconverged, including the hypervisor, there is greater control in automation so that software and firmware updates can be done without disruption to running VMs.  And for scaling out, new appliances can be added to a cluster without disruption as well.

The result of these simplifications and improvements of infrastructure in hyperconvergence is an infrastructure that can be deployed quickly, scaled easily, and that requires little management. It embodies many of the benefits of the cloud where the infrastructure is virtually transparent.  Instead of spending time managing infrastructure, administrators can focus time managing apps and processes rather than hardware and infrastructure.

Infrastructure should no longer require certified storage experts, virtualization experts, or any kind of hardware experts. Administrators should no longer need entire weekends or month-long projects to deploy and integrate infrastructure or spend sleepless nights dealing with failures. Hyperconvergence breaks the cycle of infrastructure as a variety of different vendors and components. Instead, it makes infrastructure a simple, available, and trusted commodity.

Screenshot 2016-07-13 09.34.07

Scale Computing Keeps Storage Simple and Efficient

Hyperconvergence is the combination of storage, compute, and virtualization. In a traditional virtualization architecture, combining these three components from different vendors can be complex and unwieldy without the right number of experts and administrators. When hyperconverged into a single solution, the complexity can be eliminated, if done correctly.

At Scale Computing we looked at the traditional architecture to identify the complexity we wanted to eliminate. The storage architecture that used SAN or NAS storage for virtualization turned out to be very complex.  In order to translate storage from the SAN or NAS to a virtual machine, we counted 7 layers of object files, file systems, and protocols through which I/O had to traverse to go from the VM to the hardware. Why was this the case?

Because the storage system and the hypervisor were from different vendors, and not designed specifically to work with each other, they needed these layers of protocol translation to integrate. The solution at Scale Computing for our HC3 was to own the hypervisor (HyperCore OS) and the storage system (SCRIBE) so we could eliminate these extra layers and make storage work with VMs just like direct attached storage works with a traditional server. I call it a Block Access, Direct Attached Storage System because I like the acronym.

Why didn’t other “hyperconverged” vendors do the same? Primarily because they are not really hyperconverged and they don’t own the hypervisor. As with traditional virtualization architectures, the problem of the storage and hypervisor being from different vendors prevents efficiently integrated storage for VMs.  These are storage systems being designed to support one or more third party hypervisors. These solutions generally use virtual storage appliances (VSAs) with more or less the same storage architecture as the traditional virtualization I mentioned earlier.

VSAs not only add to the inefficiency but they consume CPU and RAM resources that could otherwise be used by VM workloads.  To overcome these inefficiencies, these solutions use flash storage for caching to avoid performance issues. In some cases, these solutions have added extra processing cards to their hardware nodes to offload processing. Without being able to provide efficient storage on commodity hardware, they just can’t compete with the low price AND storage efficiency of the HC3.

The efficiency of design for HC3 performance and low price is only part of the story. We also designed the storage to combine all of the disks in a cluster into a single pool that is wide striped across the cluster for redundancy and high availability.  This pooling also allows for complete flexibility of storage usage across all nodes.  The storage pool can contain both SSD and HDD tiers and both tiers are wide striped, highly available, and accessible across the entire virtualization cluster, even on nodes that may have no physical SSD drives.

To keep the tiering both simple and efficient, we designed our own automated tiering mechanism to automatically utilize the SSD storage tier for the blocks of data with the highest I/O.  By default, the storage will optimize the SSD tier for the best overall storage efficiency without anything to manage. We wanted to eliminate the idea that someone would need a degree or certification in storage to use virtualization.

We did recognize that users might occasionally need some control over storage performance so we implemented a simple tuning mechanism that can be used to give each disk in a cluster a relative level of SSD utilization priority within the cluster. This means you can tune a disk up or down, on the fly, if you know that disk requires less or more I/O and SSD than other disks. You don’t need to know how much SSD it needs, but only that it needs less or more than other disks in the cluster and the automation takes care of the rest.  We included a total of 12 levels of prioritization from 0-11 or no SSD and scaling to 11 for putting all data on SSD if available.

Screenshot 2016-04-19 13.07.06

The result of all of the design considerations for HC3 at Scale Computing is simplicity for efficiency, ease of use, and low cost. We’re different and we want to be. It’s as simple as that.

Screenshot 2016-07-13 09.34.07

HyperCore v6 – A Closer Look at HC3’s New User Interface

They said it couldn’t be done! Scale has taken the easiest HyperConverged user interface and somehow made it simpler in HyperCore v6. HC3 offers a “set it and forget it” style to IT infrastructure. If we intend for our customers to forget about our product, the user interface has to be extremely intuitive when there is an event that requires an administrator to log in to the system (new VM/workload request, verifying an already “self-healed” hardware failure, etc.).

HyperCore v6 User Interface – Key Features

  • Streamlined workflows for administrators – 60% reduction in clicks during the VM creation workflow. Quicker access to VM consoles directly from Heads up Display (HUD).
  • New Intuitive Design – With the intelligence of HyperCore handling the heavy lifting of VM failover and data redundancy, administrators often employ a “set it and forget it” mentality where it is only required that they log in periodically to make changes to the system. This requires an intuitive interface with almost no learning curve.
  • Improved Responsiveness – The new HyperCore User Interface is extremely responsive with state changes and VM updates immediately accessible in the UI.
  • Tagging / Grouping – Users can now combine VMs into logical groups via tagging. Set multiple tags for easy filtering.
  • Filtering – Spotlight search functionality that filters VMs based on matching names, descriptions, tags for quick and easy access to VMs in larger environments.
  • Cluster Log – A single source for all of the historical activity on the cluster. Filter alerts by type or search for specific key words using the spotlight search to track historical data on the cluster.
  • UI Notification System – Pop up notifications that display in process user actions, alerts and processes present users with relevant information about active events on the system.
  • Unified Snapshot/Cloning/Replication Functionality – Snapshot, cloning and replication functionality are now integrated into the card view of each VM for easy administration.

 

User Interface Demonstrations

Anyone can say that they have a simple user interface, but it doesn’t count unless you can see that simplicity in action. Check out the demonstrations below:

Creating a VM on HC3 – HyperCore v6

Cloning a VM on HC3 – HyperCore v6

Snapshot a VM on HC3 – HyperCore v6

HyperConvergence for the SMB

Scott D. Lowe authored a fantastic article on HyperConverged.org last week that focused on where HyperConvergence is NOT a fit.  It is not an angle you hear often from a proponent of HyperConvergence and I have to admit…I like it.

At Scale, we have a laser-like focus on serving the IT infrastructure needs of small-to-medium sized businesses.  Similar to Scott Lowe’s approach in his article, it is as important to define our target customer as it is to define who is NOT our target customer.  When it comes down to it, a large company who has IT employees that specialize in every component in the infrastructure (think SAN or network admin, etc.) may never fully appreciate the simplicity of HC3 or may even be somewhat threatened by it. Continue reading

The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

With a title like Death by 1,000 cuts: Mainstream storage array supplies are bleeding, I couldn’t help but read Chris Mellor’s article on the decline of traditional storage arrays.  It starts off just as strong with:

Great beasts can be killed by a 1,000 cuts, bleeding to death from the myriad slashes in their bodies – none of which, on their own, is a killer. And this, it seems, is the way things are going for big-brand storage arrays, as upstarts slice away at the market…

And his reasons as to why are spot on from what we have seen in our target customer segment for HC3.

the classic storage array was under attack because it was becoming too limiting, complex and expensive for more and more use-cases.

Looking at our own use-case for HC3, storage array adoption for our target segment (the SMB) rose with the demand for virtualization, providing shared storage for things like live migration and failover of VMs.  It was a necessary evil to know that critical workloads weren’t going to go down for days or even weeks in the event of a hardware failure. Continue reading

SMB IT Challenges

There was a recent article that focused on the benefits that city, state and local governments have gained from implementing HyperConvergence (Side Note: for anyone interested in joining, it was brought to my attention on a new HyperConvergence group on LinkedIn where such articles are being posted and discussed).  The benefits cited in the article were:

  • Ease of management,
  • Fault tolerance,
  • Redundancy, and late in the article…
  • Scalability.

I’m sure it isn’t surprising given our core messaging around Scale’s HC3 (Simplicity, High Availability and Scalability), but I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment.

It occurred to me that the writer literally could have picked any industry and the same story could have been told.  When the IT Director from Cochise County, AZ says:

“I’ve seen an uptick in hardware failures that are directly related to our aging servers”,

It could just as easily have been the Director of IT at the manufacturing company down the street.  Or when the City of Brighton, Colorado’s Assistant Director of IT is quoted as saying,

“The demand (for storage and compute resources) kept growing and IT had to grow along with it”,

That could have come out of the mouth of just about any of the customers I talk to each week. Continue reading

Hypervisor Converged – Definitions Diverged

I read a recent blog post from VMware’s Chuck Hollis that attempted to define and compare the terms Converged Infrastructure vs. Hyper-Converged and Hypervisor-Converged Infrastructure.

As is usually the case, I thought Chuck did a great job cutting through vendor marketing to the key points and differences, beginning with his quote that “Simple is the new killer app in enterprise IT infrastructure.”  And we would echo that is even more true in the mid-sized and smaller IT shops that we focus on.

But eventually vendor biases do surface. Especially in an organization like VMware with many kinds of partners and a parent company with a hardware centric legacy. That’s not a bad thing, and I’m sure I will show my vendor bias as well.  At Scale Computing we focus exclusively on mid-size to small IT shops and are therefore biased to view the world of technology through their eyes.

As background, we would consider our HC3 products to be “hypervisor converged infrastructure” as our storage functionality is built in to the hypervisor which are both run in a single software OS kernel. I would consider hypervisor-converged to be a specific case or sub-set of hyper-converged, which simply means you have removed an external storage device and moved the physical disks into your compute hosts which also run the hypervisor code. (how the hypervisor gets to those disks is the difference in manageability, performance, complexity – see Craig Theriac’s blog series – The Infrastructure Convergence Continuum ) Continue reading