Hyperconvergence has come a long way in the past five years. Growth rates are astronomical and customers are replacing traditional three-layer configurations with hyperconverged solutions at record numbers. But not all hyperconverged solutions in the market are alike. As the market matures, this fact is coming to light. Of course, all hyperconverged solutions tightly integrate compute and storage (that is par for the course) but beyond that similarities end quickly.
One of the striking differences between SimpliVity’s hyperconverged infrastructure architecture and others is the tight integration of data protection functionality. The DNA for that is built in from the very start: SimpliVity hyperconverged infrastructure systems perform inline deduplication and compression of data at the time of data creation. Thereafter, data is kept in the “reduced” state throughout its lifecycle. This has serious positive implications on latency, performance, and bandwidth but equally importantly, it transforms data protection and other secondary uses of data.
At Taneja Group, we have been very aware of this differentiating feature of SimpliVity’s solution. So when we were asked to interview five SimpliVity customers to determine if they were getting tangible benefits (or not), we jumped at the opportunity.
This Field Report is about their experiences. We must state at the beginning that we focused primarily on their data protection experiences in this report. Hyperconvergence is all about simplicity and cost reduction. But SimpliVity’s hyperconverged infrastructure also eliminated another big headache: data protection. These customers may not have bought SimpliVity for data protection purposes, but the fact that they were essentially able to get rid of all their other data protection products was a very pleasant surprise for them. That was a big plus for these customers. To be sure, data protection is not simply backup and restore but also includes a number of other functions such as replication, DR, WAN optimization, and more.
For a broader understanding of SimpliVity’s product capabilities, other Taneja Group write-ups are available. This one focuses on data protection. Read on for these five customers’ experiences.
This Field Report was created by Taneja Group for Nutanix in late 2014 with updates in 2015. The Taneja Group analyzed the experiences of seven Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform customers and seven Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Vblock customers. We did not ‘cherry-pick’ customers for dissatisfaction, delight, or specific use case; we were interested in typical customers’ honest reactions.
As we talked in detail to these customers, we kept seeing the same patterns: 1) VCE users were interested in converged systems; and 2) they chose VCE because VCE partners Cisco, EMC, and/or VMware were embedded in their IT relationships and sales. The VCE process had the advantage of vendor familiarity, but it came at a price: high capital expense, infrastructure and management complexity, expensive support contracts, and concerns over the long-term viability of the VCE partnership (see an opinion of the DELL/EMC merger at end of this document). VCE customers typically did not research other options for converged infrastructure prior to deploying the VCE Vblock solution.
In contrast, Nutanix users researched several convergence and hyperconvergence vendors to determine the best possible fit. Nutanix’ advanced web-scale framework gave them simplified architecture and management, reasonable acquisition and operating costs, and considerably faster time to value.
Our conclusion, based on the amount of time and effort spent by the teams responsible for managing converged infrastructure, is that VCE Vblock deployments represent an improvement over traditional architectures, but Nutanix hyperconvergence – especially with its web-scale architecture – is an big improvement over VCE.
This Field Report will compare customer experiences with Nutanix hyperconverged, web-scale infrastructure to VCE Vblock in real-world environments.
Hyperconvergence is one of the hottest IT trends going in to 2016. In a recent Taneja Group survey of senior enterprise IT folks we found that over 25% of organizations are looking to adopt hyperconvergence as their primary data center architecture. Yet the centralized enterprise datacenter may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast opportunity for hyperconverged solutions. Where there are remote or branch office (ROBO) requirements demanding localized computing, some form of hyperconvergence would seem the ideal way to address the scale, distribution, protection and remote management challenges involved in putting IT infrastructure “out there” remotely and in large numbers.
However, most of today’s popular hyperconverged appliances were designed as data center infrastructure, converging data center IT resources like servers, storage, virtualization and networking into Lego™ like IT building blocks. While these at first might seem ideal for ROBOs – the promise of dropping in “whole” modular appliances precludes any number of onsite integration and maintenance challenges, ROBOs have different and often more challenging requirements than a datacenter. A ROBO does not often come with trained IT staff or a protected datacenter environment. They are, by definition, located remotely across relatively unreliable networks. And they fan out to the thousands (or tens of thousands) of locations.
Certainly any amount of convergence simplifies infrastructure making easier to deploy and maintain. But in general popular hyperconvergence appliances haven’t been designed to be remotely managed en masse, don’t address unreliable networks, and converge storage locally and directly within themselves. Persisting data in the ROBO is a recipe leading to a myriad of ROBO data protection issues. In ROBO scenarios, the datacenter form of hyperconvergence is not significantly better than simple converged infrastructure (e.g. pre-configured rack or blades in a box).
Riverbed’s SteelFusion we feel has brought full hyperconvergence benefits to the ROBO edge of the organization. They’ve married their world-class WANO technologies, virtualization, and remote storage “projection” to create what we might call “Edge Hyperconvergence”. We see the edge hyperconverged SteelFusion as purposely designed for companies with any number of ROBO’s that each require local IT processing.
The truly mobile business. Practically every company we speak to would like to achieve it. In its ultimate incarnation, business mobility enables users to cost-effectively and securely access apps, information and other users on demand, from any device, wherever they happen to be. Platforms, systems and protocols become transparent, even invisible, enabling users across vast distances to innovate without boundaries, collaboratively solve business problems, and engage more effectively with customers. Though relatively few firms are this far along in their business mobility initiatives, many companies are already reaping the benefits of a more versatile and productive workforce, along with increased deployment flexibility and lower management and support costs. Over time, firms often extend these initiatives beyond their own workforce, enabling them to serve customers more effectively and build new revenue streams.
However, for some companies we speak with, business mobility remains an elusive goal. As these organizations tend to learn the hard way, building a truly mobile business requires not just the right technology and capabilities, but also the business processes and management platform to unlock their full potential. To learn more about the paths companies take toward business mobility—and what makes some more successful than others—Taneja Group asked nearly 1,200 buyers and practitioners to tell us the challenges they face and capabilities/products they are adopting on the road to creating a more mobile business. A growing number of these organizations—spanning from large and small enterprises to midsize companies across a range of geographies and industries—are now experiencing benefits such as improved workforce effectiveness, reduced costs and new revenue growth from their business mobility initiatives.
In this paper, you will learn—based on our study findings and VMware customer experience—how you can benefit by following a proven path to improve business mobility for your workforce and customers.
Dell Storage SC Series achieved a five nines (5 9s) availability rating years ago. Now the SC Series is displaying 5 9s and greater with technologies that are moving availability even farther up the scale. This is a big achievement based on real, measurable field data: the only numbers that really count.
Not every piece of data requires 5 9s capability. However, critical Tier 1 applications do need it. Outage costs vary by industry but easily total millions of dollars per hour in highly regulated and data-intensive industries. Some of the organizations in these verticals are enterprises, but many more are mid-sized businesses with exceptionally mission-critical data stores.
Consider such applications as e-commerce systems. Online customers are notorious for abandoning shopping carts even when the application is running smoothly. Downing an e-commerce system can easily cost millions of dollars in lost sales over a few days or hours, not to mention a loss of reputation. Other mission-critical applications that must be available include OLTP, CRM or even email systems.
Web applications present another HA mission. SaaS providers with sales support or finance software can hardly afford downtime. Streaming sites with subscribers also lose large amounts of future revenue if they go down. Many customers will ask for refunds or cancel their subscriptions and never return.
However, most highly available 5 9s systems have large purchase prices and high ongoing expenses. Many small enterprise and mid-sized business cannot afford these high-priced systems or the staff that goes with them. They know they need availability and try to save money and time by buying cheaper systems with 4 9s availability or lower. Their philosophy is that these systems are good enough. And they are good enough for general storage, but not for data whose unavailability quickly spirals up into the millions of dollars. Buying less than 5 9s in this type of environment is a false economy.
Still, even the risk of sub-par availability doesn’t raise the money that a business needs for high-end availability systems. This is where the story gets very interesting. Dell Storage SC Series offers 5 9s and higher availability – and it does it at a mid-range cost. Dell does not sacrifice high availability architecture for a lower CAPEX and OPEX but also provides dynamic scalability, management simplicity, redundant storage, space-saving snapshots and automatic tiering. Thanks to the architecture behind Dell Storage SC Series, Dell has achieved a unique position in the high availability stakes.
Virtualization’s biggest driver is big savings: slashing expenditures on servers, licenses, management, and energy. Another major benefit is the increased ease of disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC) in virtualized environments.
Note that disaster recovery and business continuity are closely aligned but not identical. We define disaster recovery as the process of restoring lost data, applications and systems following a profound data loss event, such as a natural disaster, a deliberate data breach or employee negligence. Business continuity takes DR a step further. BC’s goal is not only to recover the computing environment but also to recover them swiftly and with zero data loss. This is where recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) enter the picture, with IT assigning differing RPO and RTO strategies according to application priority.
DR/BC can be difficult to do well in data centers with traditional physical servers, particularly in SMB with limited IT budgets and generalist IT staff. Many of these servers are siloed with direct-attached storage and individual data protection processes. Mirroring and replication used to require one-to-one hardware correspondence and can be expensive, leading to a universal reliance on localized backup as data protection. In addition, small IT staffs do not always take the time to perfect their backup processes across disparate servers. Either they do not do it at all –rolling the dice and hoping there won’t be a disaster – or they slap backups on tape or USB drives and stick them on a shelf.
Virtualization can transform this environment into a much more efficient and protected data center. Backing up VMs from a handful of host servers is faster and less resource-intensive than backing up tens or hundreds of physical servers. And with scheduled replication, companies achieve faster backup and much improved recovery objectives.
However, many SMBs avoid virtualization. They cite factors such as cost, unfamiliarity with hypervisors, and added complexity. And they are not wrong: virtualization can introduce complexity, it can be expensive, and it can require familiarity with hypervisors. Virtualization cuts down on physical servers but is resource-intensive, especially as the virtualized environment grows. This means capital costs for high performance CPUs and storage. SMBs may also have to deal VM licensing and management costs, administrative burdens, and the challenge of protecting and replicating virtualized data on a strict budget.
For all its complexity and learning curve, is virtualization worth it for SMBs? Definitely. Its benefits far outweigh its problems, particularly its advantages for DR/BC. But for many SMBs, traditional virtualization is often too expensive and complex to warrant the effort. We believe that the answer is HyperConverged Infrastructure: HCI. Of HCI providers, Scale Computing is exceptionally attractive to the SMB. This paper will explain why.