Stratoscale – A true Hyper-converged solution similar to VMware Evo:RAIL?

I’ve been exploring the partner solution offerings during Cisco Live 2015 in Milan, and came across this stand from Stratoscale which I found quite interesting. So I had a chat with the guys and thought it would be worth  mentioning a little bit about what I learnt of them.

Stratoscale is a small Israel IT start up (offices in Israel, USA and expanding out globally), with funding from Cisco investments (understandably) that provides a true, large scale hyper converged infrastructure software that can run on BYOH (Bring your Own Hardware). I’ve had a lengthy (technical) chat with one of the founders of the company,  Etay Bognar (etay@stratoscale.com) and they seems to have a very interesting proposition at hand. Unlike other popular converged infrastructures vendors such as Nutanix, Simplivity….etc. Stratoscale seem to offer just the software elements that can work with commodity hardware from any server vendor. But the key here is that they actually own and provide all the software elements including the hypervisor which is a customised version of KVM which is optimized to work based on their hyper converged offering. For example, as a part of this customisation, they claimed that they’ve completely re-written the memory management module within KVM to optimise it and as a result of such optimisations, that they could migrate a running VM from one host to another within a second, regardless of the size of the VM which sounds very interesting (though I haven’t seen it in action myself, but kind of make sense as they claim to use post copy operation unlike VMware VMotion that uses pre-copy).

As a part of the software solution offering, they are also providing a fully customiseable management platform (similar to VMware vCenter in an ESXi cluster), something that seems to be lacking in a generic KVM based hypervisor cluster deployment without heavy scripting…etc. This management platform apparently also offer intelligent algorythms managing and maintaining VM placements within the cluster (similar to VMware DRS). According to what I was told, they key here is that the level of control & visibility they have within the compute and storage layer is very granular & limitless, as they own the hypervisor too, much like VMware in their Evo:RAIL offering.  This is very different to, say a Simplivity or a Nutanix solution that don’t have their own hypervisor, therefor having to rely on vCenter / ESXi API to interact with compute platform and therefore be restricted to what you can see and do to the contents of the API. To me it make sense that Nutanix and Simplivity are more like aggregators rather than true Hyper-Converged solutions where as VMware Evo:RAIL is probably the only other true Hyper Converged solution that truly converge everything.

So these guys at Stratoscale looks like a direct competitor to VMware’s Evo:RAIL solution going forward from what I could see as they too have true Hyper-Convergence in that they own the whole software stack in their offering and all aspects of the solution, compute and storage are all baked in directly to the hypervisor, much like VMware Evo:RAIL. Their solution at present appear to scale out to 64 nodes at present with distributed storage in all nodes (SSD backed, similar to VMware Evo:RAIL) and to be honest I quite liked their pitch. It sounds like a very powerful offering which could potentially be a very good solution for some of those non VMware customers, that are more Linux orientated that do not want to spend too much money for a VMware solution (I do not know how expensive it is compared to a VMware solution but I was assured that its a lot cheaper in comparison). Being a start up, there’s no doubt that things would need improving, and its probably no match right now, for the almost fully complete VMware offering with all its eco system, but it would be interesting to see how they fare, especially given the fact that owning their own hypervisor giving them somewhat similar capability to VMware to produce an optimised Hyper-Converged solution. If they do well, I can see naturally, they could end up being a very good acquisition target for the likes of Cisco, Intel who may want to strategically enter the Hypervisor play (current Cisco funding is pretty self explanatory here I think). Worth keeping a close eye out, I know I will.

Comments are welcome, especially from existing Hyper-Converged solutions users

Cheers

Chan

My first Cisco Live experience – Cisco Live 2015 Europe – Day 1

So, I’ve had the chance to attend Cisco Live for the first time this year and as a result, I’m now in Milan-Italy, attending the Cisco live Europe edition  during this week. Cisco live is an enterprise gathering for all Cisco enthusiastic, from across the Europe, be that you are a Cisco customer, partner, distributor…etc.

I’m usually a regular attendee at similar events from VMware (VMworld) and NetApp (Insight), and Cisco being another key vendor I often work with, when I was asked to attend Cisco Live this year, I was quite excited and was looking forward to a similar experience to that of  VMworld and NetApp Insight. I arrived at the venue for the first time on Monday evening through the Linate airport (closest airport to the venue in Milan) and unfortunately, there were no coach transportation from the airport to the venue provided by Cisco, unlike both VMworld or NetApp Insight. Once you arrive at the venue, you collect your badge from the registration desk which you need throughout the event for gaining access to the venue and everything else inside. Upon collecting your badge, you then collect a little back pack from the gift desk which seems to be customery for all such events (same with VMworld and Insight) which is semi filled with marketing leaflets (yeah…. mine usually go straight out of the bag to the bin 🙂 )

So Tuesday being my first full day at the venue, first event of the day was a general, opening key note speech from Carlos Dominguez and Jeremy Bevan from Cisco. I didn’t really sit through all of their speech as usually these key notes tend to have a bit of a marketing / salesy tone to them. I did listen in to some parts though and the general message seems to be Internet of things and software defined, application centric networking which is nothing new.

My first formal session was not due till 2:15 so I took the opportunity to browse around the World of Solutions  exhibition floor where Cisco and 3rd party Cisco partners were showcasing their products.  I’ve obviously been around the whole floor to see who’s out there with a view to go look at every solution stand in more detail during the course of the event, a notable absentee was Microsoft, which was suprising given that Cisco and Microsoft seem to have gotten a lot closer lately with their work together on areas such as FlexPod for Hyper-V…etc. There was a small (ish) EMC stand also highlighting the joint VCE alliance they have with Cisco and VMware and a NetApp stand highlighting their joint Flexpod solution which were probably the 2 key stands along with, Hitachi, Citrix and F5. There were lots of different Cisco stands, presumably from each different business unit within Cisco showcasing their technology offering which was good. however I was a little disappointed with the number of partner stands available as there weren’t many, at least not as many as I’ve seen at VMworld or NetApp Insight which was suprising. I expected the Cisco partner echosystem to be a lot bigger, especially with Cisco’s entry in to Unified Computing and SDN but most of the partner stands available were focused on traditional LAN, WAN and Switching products of Cisco and adding value around those products. I would have liked to have seen few more partner oferrings in the SDN (software Defined Networking-ACI) side of things such as Palo Alto networks and UCS (Unified Computing Systems) side of things (which, in all honesty are the areas of Cisco I am interested in rather than old school LAN, WAN, Switching and routing products)…. So overall, to me, it was little disspointing.

However, out  of the few 3rd party vendor solution stands I have explored closely so far, I did find this really interesting solution from Stratoscale, which I thought was a very interesting technology in what is supposed to be a true hyper-Converged Infrastructure software offering. (See my article about them here for more info)

As I had few hours to kill before my next session, I decided to attend the Cisco DevNet zone area and do some self phased labs. I had a go at one of the labs on REST API which was good. I’d encourage you to have a look at them online, they are kind of similar to VMware hands on labs if you are in to Development or DevOps side of things involving Cisco kit.

I attended the “Introduction to Application Centric Infrastructure” session (BRKAPP-9000) in the afternoon which was interesting and had quite a lot of content packed to a 2 hour session to give a good overview of the Cisco’s own SDN offering – ACI. I’m not going to mentioned everything mentioned in that lecture here, but one of the key messages was that ACI is a very good solution to co-exist with VMware NSX, contrary to popular belief that Cisco ACI and VMware NSX are always competing technologies, both technologies complement one another and its very much copete NOT compete which is good to hear. The content was very technical and not salesy or markettingy at all which was very good and I hope the other technical sessions I’ve planned to attend during the course of the next few are also as good.

After the ACI session, I headed straight back to the hotel (so I could put this article up) but there was a Welcome reception – a food and drinks filled gathering at the World of Solutions exhibition floor which I decided to take a rain check on.

All in all, day 1 has been a bit of a mixed day with the event so far as not being well organised as compared to VMworld or NetApp insight, not as well attended as those two events, lacked sufficient sessions or 3rd party solutions focused on areas outside of traditional LAN, WAN, Switching and Routing (which may not be an issue for the old school, traditional networking folks), but on the positive side, there were some interesting partner solutions on display along with good, technical lectures from Cisco engineers to attend.

Hopefully day 2 tomorrow would be more interesting…!!

Cheers

Chan