Tag Archives: VMware Evo:RAIL

NetApp Integrated EVO:RAIL

NetApp has announced their version of the VMware EVO:RAIL offering – NetApp Integrated EVO:RAIL solution. So I thought I’d share with you some details if you are keen to find out a bit more.

First of all, VMware EVO:RAIL is one of the true hyper-converged infrastructure solutions available in the market today and I’d encourage you to read up a little more about it here first up if you are new to such hyper-converged solutions. A key element of this traditional VMware EVO:RAIL offering is that the underpinning storage is normally provided by VMware VSAN.  While there’s lot of good things and a great vibe in the industry about VSAN as a disruptive software defined storage technology with lots of potential, if you come from a traditional storage background where you understand the importance of specialist storage solutions (SAN) that’s built up their storage capabilities for years of work in the field (think EMC, NetApp, 3PAR, HDS), you may feel a little nervy about having to put your key application data on a relatively new storage technology like VSAN. So some of these storage vendors recognised this and added their storage tech to the same VMware EVO:RAIL offering, with a view to complement the  basic VMware EVO:RAIL offering. A list of those available can be found here (but please note that not all the vendors that appear here offer their own storage with VMware EVO:RAIL offering but simply the server hardware with VMware VSAN as the only storage option and its not very clear). NetApp integrated EVO:RAIL is NetApp’s version of this solution where, alongside VMware VSAN to storage temporary and less important data, a dedicated NetApp enterprise SAN cluster with all the NetApp innovation found within its Data ONTAP operating system is also made available to customers within this Evo:RAIL solution automatically. (EMC also announced something a little similar recently where they offer a VXPEX BLUE hyper converged appliance with VMware EVO:RAIL which you can read up about here. Until then, they only sold EVO:RAIL with just VMware VSAN rather than with a bundled EMC storage offering behind it so be careful if you are considering an Evo:RAIL offering from EMC).

Couple of background info points on the concept of hyper-converged infrastructures first,

  • Integrated / converged infrastructure market is and has been growing for many use cases of late. For example, FlexPod & VBLOCK have been massive successes and it is estimation is that 14,6% of the hardware market (server, storage & networking) is to be a part of an integrated infrastructure.
  • Hyper Converged infrastructure such as VMware Evo:RAIL is the next evolution of this naturally. Evo:RAIL can be classed as a true Hyper Converged solution compared to some other popular integration solutions (that uses a 3rd party hypervisor) such as Nutanix, Simplivity also often referred to as hyper-converged platforms.
  • It was estimated that the hyper-converged market was worth around $400-500 million for 2014
  • Amongst many use cases, Hyper Converged solutions are touted to be a good solution for the likes of branch offices…etc, where due to limited staff and infrastructure isolation requirements, simplicity of the solution setup and modular, self sufficient nature of the solution has been seen a good fit.
  • NetApp’s view seems to be that this (VMware EVO:RAIL) is very much a prescriptive solution that is not as scalable as a traditional infrastructure consisting of separate compute, storage & network nodes (i.e. FlexPod, VBLOCK) and its probably a view shared by the majority of the storage vendors.

Lets take a closer look at what the NetApp Integrated EVO:RAIL solution is and what its going to give you.

  • NetApp and VMware has had a long standing history of joint innovation together with more than 40,000 joint customers to date

1. History

  • NetApp Integrated EVO:RAIL provides a trusted storage platform vendor in to the existing VMware EVO:RAIL architecture and naturally only targeted at VMware customers.
  • Given below is the technical summary of the NetApp Integrated Evo:RAIL solution.
    • NetApp branded compute nodes (Co-branded with VMware)
      • Fixed server configuration similar to other competitive EVO:RAIL solutions.
      • 4 independent server nodes per NetApp server chassis
      • Dual Intel E5-2620v2 CPUs per server with 48 cores total per chassis
      • 192GB of RAM per server with 768GB of RAM total per chassis
      • Dual 10GbE NIC (optical or copper) SFP+ per server
      • NetApp fully provide all the server hardware support (actual OEM name is a secret) – This should not be too much of a concern to customers as a compute node is not massively different to their SAN controllers (both x86 systems) that they’ve been supporting for years.
    • NetApp Storage nodes
      • Comes with a NetApp FAS2552 high available SAN with Flash Pool (Flash pool is a way of NetApp using SSD disks in the shelves acting as a caching layer to optimize random reads and random overwrite workloads-typically seen in VDI, OLTP databases, Virtualisation. More info here.)
      • include Premium software bundle that include,
        • NetApp® Virtual Storage Console
        • NetApp NFS Plug-in for VMware VAAI
        • NetApp clustered Data ONTAP
        • NetApp Integration Software for VMware EVO:RAIL
        • NetApp FlexClone, SnapRestore, SnapMirror, SnapVault, Single Mailbox Recovery, SnapManager Suite
      • 12.6TB approximate NetApp usable capacity for enterprise data with SSD’s included for FlashPool (+6.5TB VSAN useable capacity)
      • Based on FAS2552 in a switchless cDOT cluster
      • Virtual SAN for vSphere infrastructure (as a base component to bring up the solution components up and running initially)
    • VMware Software Included
      • VMware EVO:RAIL software
      • VMware vCenter Server
      • VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus
      • VMware vRealize Log Insight
      • VMware Virtual SAN

Given below is the physical connectivity architecture of the NetApp integrated Evo:RAIL

2. Connectivity

  • The current offering has 2 types of storage:
    • VMware VSAN storage: Basic local server storage which is controlled by VSAN. Base application, SWAP space and temporary data can be placed here.
    • NetApp storage: Used for application deployment that require DR (NetApp SnapMirror…etc) and granular performance requirements (VST), Security and all traditional SAN requirements. For example, database servers like SQL, Oracle, and other applications like SAP, Sharepoint, Exchange as well as VDI that requires application integration for backup and recovery can have their data placed on the NetApp for the SnapManager application integration.
  • NetApp integrated Evo:RAIL also comes with the following benefit
    • NetApp Global Support providing,
      • Single contact for solution support
      • 3 years NetApp SupportEdge Premium Services for compute, storage, and NetApp and VMware software (note that NetApp specialise in this join support model already through the FlexPod support between NetApp, Cisco and VMware which they are presumably leveraging here)3 year hardware warranty (NetApp storage and server hardware)
      • Onsite Next Business Day and Same Day 4 hour parts replacement
  • Simple Deployment
    • Additional EVO:RAIL configuration engine integration software from NetApp (click and launch from the EVO:RAIL home page) is aimed to simplify the deployment of the NetApp storage as a part of the Evo:RAIL deployment.
    • Key points to note here are,
      • Simple setup and configuration & NetApp best practices automatically applied
      • Unified management across virtual and storage environment using vCenter Web Client with integrated NetApp Virtual Storage Console
      • Deep application integration: Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, Oracle and SAP
    • Overall deployment takes around 11 minutes approx. for the EVO:RAIL + about 5 mins for the NetApp SAN
    • A NetApp automation VM (called NTP-QEP) is deployed as a part of the initial deployment configuration automatically which acts as the glue between the EVO:RAIL management software and the NetApp hardware (I wonder if we can get this appliance with an API access so we can point this as a standalone NetApp?? That would be pretty awesome now wouldn’t it??)

4. Demo 1

    • The current prototype version of the integration software through this VM can be accessed when you login to the EVO:RAIL management console via the NetApp icon on the left and once launched, will take you to a simple data collection screen that asks for vCenter credentials, storage system pwd, management & data network details and the license details for the NetApp. Once they are provided and submitted, the automation engine will go ahead and configure the whole NetApp cDOT cluster including VSC VM deployed, cluster instantiated, node manage LIFS created, SP configured FP configured, SVM, FlexVol created & datastores are mounted to VMware for use based on NetApp best practise all automatically. Things like deduplication is also automatically enabled.
    • Since the NetApp Virtual Storage Console plugin is automatically installed, you can easily configure any additional NetApp configurations through that afterwards if you really wants.
  • Current planned use cases
    • Mainly aimed at branch offices as a solution
    • Also recommended as a point solutions aimed at achieving compliance and application integration such as database system deployments with built in backup and DR
    • Also positioned for VDI deployments (due to the built in flash option and the ease of deployment) with integrated backup and DR
  • Ordering & Availability
    • All components are available as a single product with 2 SKU’s, a product SKU and a support SKU. That’s it and include all NetApp and VMware software components in the SKU.
    • Targeted availability for ordering is somewhere around Q1/Q2 this year (2015)

Sounds like an interesting proposition from NetApp and I can see value, especially if you are an existing NetApp customer who knows and are used to all the handy tools available to you from the storage layer whos looking at VMware EVO:RAIL for a point solution or a branch office solution, this would be a simple no brainer.

Cheers

Slide credit goes to NetApp..!

Chan

 

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