Next Generation Virtualization: HyperConvergence

Posted on September 24, 2012 By Jeff Boles

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Hyperconvergence is a seamlessly integrated whole, built upon homogeneous building block appliances that deliver all infrastructure functionality – compute, storage, and networking. Moreover, it will glue all of these parts together so the solution is highly automated top to bottom.

The most significant alteration in the Hyperconvergence approach is that it starts with storage, and aims to make the most difficult to manage resource in the data center highly efficient, performant, and scalable. From that foundation, Hyperconvergence clusters together a practically unlimited set of homogeneous storage+compute+network appliances. After initial deployment the customer can easily scale any starting configuration by simply adding more homogeneous appliances.

With internal storage virtualized across the cluster, any building block can access any stored data, while the cluster’s network makes access to any network port or amount of bandwidth instantly possible. By way of management tools, virtual administrators will be able to impose restrictions, pools, or barriers to facilitate organization and separation of workloads and resources for multi-tenancy or security.

With the Hyperconvergence solutions now entering the market, the IT administrator will be able to focus entirely on the server or application, and trust that all of the integrated components transparently work together in the background. When more interaction is needed, the administrator will be able to see and centrally manage the entirety of all of those other systems, without leaving the Hyperconverged solution.

Then, when more storage, networking, or processing power is needed, a single building block addition will add to the total resource pool, without deployment or integration effort.

This will radically simplify provisioning, scaling, and failure avoidance, and redefine utilization patterns in the data center. Much overprovisioning will vanish, and utilization will match what is actually consumed. Moreover, it will transform the speed and ease of IT infrastructure adaptation, and make the IT driven business vastly more agile.

A VENDOR SURVEY

Surveying the vendor marketplace for Hyperconvergence is straightforward. This marketplace is relatively new, and has only a few recently introduced pioneers: Nutanix, Scale Computing, and SimpliVity.

In common to all three products is a system architecture that starts with scale-out storage. On top of this storage foundation, the vendors layer various flavors of storage functionality and compute virtualization.

With an eye toward the SMB-market, Scale Computing has transformed their highly-affordable, scale-out, iSCSI/CIFS/NFS storage cluster into a Hyperconvergence solution by integrating a highly polished KVM hypervisor and comprehensive management layer.

Scale Computing’s approach has simplified deployment and management to such a degree that we identified an 8X improvement over typical vSphere infrastructures in a recent hands-on Technology Validation.

Nutanix was the earliest of these vendors to introduce Hyperconvergence in their Nutanix Complete Cluster, targeted at mid-sized enterprise customers. Nutanix has received high visibility for unleashing a tremendous amount of power per unit of rack space. They employ dynamic auto-tiering of stored data onto NAND Flash SSD that cranks up the total IO available from each Nutanix node.

SimpliVity more recently entered the market with a similar IO accelerating architecture, alongside global capacity optimizing deduplication. SimpliVity customers can globally distribute SimpliVity OmniCubes across sites and even into the Amazon EC2 cloud, while managing all of the OmniCubes in a single global resource pool as a federated OmniCube cluster. SimpliVity also uses their deduplication technology to optimize WAN data movement across distributed OmniCube nodes. Both Nutanix and SimpliVity use an ESXi hypervisor and VMware’s vSphere for virtual infrastructure management.

Hyperconvergence Matures the Convergence Vision

Hyperconvergence itself is not really so radical – it is simply a better-realized iteration of the vision that every major vendor is pursuing. Those major vendors hope to extend their management approach to control and automate everything in the data center. They operate under a banner of “software defined” IT, or in other cases under the banner of simple convergence.

Hyperconvergence turns this model on its head. It starts by building its foundation on scalable storage-layer glue integrated with compute, that in turn makes all of the physically imposed boundaries and complexity disappear. Convergence has never before started with storage and aimed to tackle higher-level problems. This is what stands to make Hyperconvergence uniquely disruptive.

This handful of pioneers has launched Hyperconvergence in a thunderous start. The promise is that this will fundamentally alter the complexity of the infrastructure. If our hands-on assessment of one of these vendors (Scale Computing) is any representation of the norm, Hyperconvergence will have a big impact. It will create fundamental alterations in the cost of compute, the agility of the business, and in the daily responsibilities of the IT administrator.



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