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Trusted Business Advisors, Expert Technology Analysts

Research Areas

Software Defined/Virtualized Infrastructure

Includes Software-Defined Infrastructure (compute, storage and networking), Virtual Infrastructure technologies (server virtualization, desktop virtualization, I/O virtualization), and the interplay between these technologies and traditional storage. Covers different types of Software-Defined Storage, such as Scale-out NAS, in depth.

Taneja Group has been at the forefront of assessing and characterizing virtualization and software-defined infrastructure technologies since they began to emerge in the early 2000’s. Virtualization has caused one of the most disruptive technology shifts in data center infrastructure in the last 15 years. While its basic principles may not be new, virtualization has never been so widespread, nor has it been applied to as many platforms as it is in today. Taneja Group analysts combine expert knowledge of server and storage virtualization with keen insight into their impact on all aspects of IT operations and management to give our clients the research and analysis required to take advantage of this “virtual evolution.” We focus on the interplay of server and client virtualization technologies with storage, and study the impact on performance, security and management of the IT infrastructure. Our virtualization practice covers all virtual infrastructure components: server virtualization/hypervisors, desktop/client virtualization, storage virtualization, and network and I/O virtualization.

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Technology Validation

Scale Computing HC3 And VMware Virtual SAN Hyperconverged Solutions - Head to Head

Scale Computing was an early proponent of hyperconverged appliances and is one of the innovators in this marketplace. Since the release of Scale Computing’s first hyperconverged appliance, many others have come to embrace the elegance of having storage and compute functionality combined on a single server. Even the virtualization juggernaut VMware has seen the benefits of abstracting, pooling, and running storage and compute on shared commodity hardware. VMware’s current hyperconverged storage initiative, VMware Virtual SAN, seems to be gaining traction in the marketplace. We thought it would be an interesting exercise to compare and contrast Scale Computing’s hyperconverged appliance to a hyperconverged solution built around VMware Virtual SAN. Before we delve into this exercise, however, let’s go over a little background history on the topic.

Taneja Group defines hyperconvergence as the integration of multiple previously separate IT domains into one system in order to serve up an entire IT infrastructure from a single device or system. This means that hyperconverged systems contain all IT infrastructure—networking, compute and storage—while promising to preserve the adaptability of the best traditional IT approaches. Such capability implies an architecture built for seamless and easy scaling over time, in a "grow as needed” fashion.

Scale Computing got its start with scale-out storage appliances and has since morphed these into a hyperconverged appliance—HC3. HC3 was the natural evolution of its well-regarded line of scale-out storage appliances, which includes both a hypervisor and a virtual infrastructure manager. HC3’s strong suit is its ease of use and affordability. The product has seen tremendous growth and now has over 900 deployments.

VMware got its start with compute virtualization software and is by far the largest virtualization company in the world. VMware has always been a software company, and takes pride in its hardware agnosticism. VMware’s first attempt to combine shared direct-attached storage (DAS) storage and compute on the same server resulted in a product called “VMware vSphere Storage Appliance” (VSA), which was released in June of 2011. VSA had many limitations and didn’t seem to gain traction in the marketplace and reached its end of availability (EOA) in June of 2014. VMware’s second attempt, VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN), which was announced at VMworld in 2013, shows a lot of promise and seems to be gaining acceptance, with over 300 paying customers using the product. We will be comparing VMware Virtual SAN to Scale Computing’s hyperconverged appliance, HC3, in this paper.

Here we have two companies: Scale Computing, which has transformed from an early innovator in scale-out storage to a company that provides a hyperconverged appliance; and VMware, which was an early innovator in compute virtualization and since has transformed into a company that provides the software needed to create build-your-own hyperconverged systems. We looked deeply into both systems (HC3 and VSAN) and walked both through a series of exercises to see how they compare. We aimed this review at what we consider a sweet spot for these products: small to medium-sized enterprises with limited dedicated IT staff and a limited budget. After spending time with these two solutions, and probing various facets of them, we came up with some strong conclusions about their ability to provide an affordable, easy to use, scalable solution for this market.

The observations we have made for both products are based on hands-on testing both in our lab and on-site at Scale Computing’s facility in Indianapolis, Indiana. Although we talk about performance in general terms, we do not, and you should not, construe this to be a benchmarking test. We have, in good faith, verified all conclusions made around any timing issues. Moreover, the numbers that we are using are generalities that we believe are widely known and accepted in the virtualization community.

Publish date: 10/01/14
Technology Validation

Scale Computing HC3: A Second Look at a Hyperconverged Appliance

Consolidation and enhanced management enabled by virtualization has revolutionized the practice of IT around the world over the past few years. By abstracting compute from the underlying hardware systems, and enabling oversubscription of physical systems by virtual workloads, IT has been able to pack more systems into the data center than before. Moreover, for the first time in seemingly decades, IT has also taken a serious leap ahead in management, as this same virtual infrastructure has wrapped the virtualized workload with better capabilities than ever before - tools like increased visibility, fast provisioning, enhanced cloning, and better data protection. The net result has been a serious increase in overall IT efficiency.

But not all is love and roses with the virtual infrastructure. In the face of serious benefits and consequent rampant adoption, virtualization continues to advance and bring about more capability. All too often, an increase in capability has come at the cost of complexity. Virtualization now promises to do everything from serving up compute instances, to providing network infrastructure and network security, to enabling private clouds.

For certain, much of this complexity exists between the individual physical infrastructures that IT must touch, and the simultaneous duplication that virtualization often brings into the picture. Virtual and physical networks must now be integrated, the relationship between virtual and physical servers must be tracked, and the administrator can barely answer with certainty whether key storage functions, like snapshots, should be managed on physical storage systems or in the virtual infrastructure.

With challenges surrounding the complexity in managing a virtualized datacenter, Scale Computing, long a provider of scale-out storage, introduced a new line of hyperconverged appliances - HC3 in April, 2012 and updated the appliances with the new HyperCore software in May, 2014. HC3 is an integration of storage and virtualized compute within a scale-out building block architecture that couples all of the elements of a virtual data center together inside a hyperconverged appliance. The result is a system that is simple to use and does away with much of the complexity associated with virtualization in the data center. By virtualizing and intermingling compute and storage inside a system that is designed for scale-out, HC3 does away with the need to manage virtual networks, assemble complex compute clusters, provision and manage storage, and a bevy of other day to day administrative tasks. Provisioning additional resources - any resource - becomes one-click-easy, and adding more physical resources as the business grows is reduced to a simple 2-minute exercise.

While this sounds compelling on the surface, Taneja Group recently turned our Technology Validation service - our hands-on lab service - to the task of evaluating whether Scale Computing's HC3 could deliver on these promises in the real world. For this task, we put an HC3 cluster through the paces to see how well it deployed, how it held up under use, and what special features it delivered that might go beyond the features found in traditional integrations of discreet compute and storage systems.

Publish date: 09/30/14
Free Reports

Executive Summary: VCE and Nutanix in the Real World

Taneja Group prepared a Field Report for Nutanix on the real-world customer experience for seven Nutanix hyperconvergence and seven VCE convergence customers. We did not cherry pick customers for dissatisfaction or delight; we were interested in typical customers’ honest reactions.

The same conclusions kept emerging: VCE users see convergence as a benefit over traditional do-it-yourself infrastructure, but an expensive one. Some of the concerns include high prices, infrastructure and management complexity, expensive support contracts, and concerns over the long-term viability of the partnership between EMC, VMware and Cisco. The Nutanix users also shared valuable hyperconvergence benefits.  In contrast to VCE, they also cited simplified architecture and management, reasonable acquisition and operating costs, and considerably faster time to value.

Our conclusion is that VCE convergence is an improvement over traditional architecture, but Nutanix hyperconvergence is an evolutionary improvement over VCE. 

Publish date: 09/29/14
Report

HP ConvergedSystem: Altering Business Efficiency and Agility with Integrated Systems

The era of IT infrastructure convergence is upon us. Over the past few years Integrated Computing systems – the integration of compute, networking, and storage - have burst onto the scene and have been readily adopted by large enterprise users. The success of these systems has been built by taking well-known IT workloads and combining it with purpose built integrated computing systems optimized for that particular workload. Example workloads today that are being integrated to create these systems are Cloud, Big Data, Virtualization, Database, VDI or even combinations of two or more.

In the past putting these workload solutions together meant having or hiring technology experts with multiple domain knowledge expertise. Integration and validation could take months of on-premise work. Fortunately, technology vendors have matured along with their Integrated Computing systems approach, and now practically every vendor seems to be touting one integrated system or another focused on solving a particular workload problem. The promised set of business benefits delivered by these new systems fall into these key areas:

·         Implementation efficiency that accelerates time to realizing value from integrated systems

·         Operational efficiency through optimized workload density and an ideally right sized set of infrastructure

·         Management efficiency enabled by an integrated management umbrella that ties all of the components of a solution together

·         Scale and agility efficiency unlocked through a repeatedly deployable building block approach

·         Support efficiency that comes with deeply integrated, pre-configured technologies, overarching support tools, and a single vendor support approach for an entire-set of infrastructure

In late 2013, HP introduced a new portfolio oSDDCffering called HP ConvergedSystem – a family of systems that includes a specifically designed virtualization offering. ConvergedSystem marked a new offering, designed to tackle key customer pain points around infrastructure and software solution deployment, while leveraging HP’s expertise in large scale build-and-integration processes to herald an entirely new level of agility around speed of ordering and implementation. In this profile, we’ll examine how integrated computing systems marks a serious departure from the inefficiencies of traditional order-build-deploy customer processes, and also evaluate HP’s latest advancement of these types of systems.

Publish date: 09/02/14
Technology Validation

Accelerating the VM with FlashSoft: Software-Driven Flash-Caching for the Virtual Infrastructure

Storage performance has long been the bane of the enterprise infrastructure. Fortunately, in the past couple of years, solid-state technologies have allowed new comers as well as established storage vendors to start shaping up clever, cost effective, and highly efficient storage solutions that unlock greater storage performance. It is our opinion that the most innovative of these solutions are the ones that require no real alteration in the storage infrastructure, nor a change in data management and protection practices.

This is entirely possible with server-side caching solutions today. Server-side caching solutions typically use either PCIe solid-state NAND Flash or SAS/SATA SSDs installed in the server alongside a hardware or software IO handler component that mirrors commonly utilized data blocks onto the local high speed solid-state storage. Then the IO handler redirects server requests for data blocks to those local copies that are served up with lower latency (microseconds instead of milliseconds) and greater bandwidth than the original backend storage. Since data is simply cached, instead of moved, the solution is transparent to the infrastructure. Data remains consolidated on the same enterprise infrastructure, and all of the original data management practices – such as snapshots and backup – still work. Moreover, server-side caches can actually offload IO from the backend storage system, and can allow a single storage system to effectively serve many more clients. Clearly there’s tremendous potential value in a solution that can be transparently inserted into the infrastructure and address storage performance problems.

Publish date: 08/25/14
Free Reports

HP StoreVirtual VSA and VMware Virtual SAN - A Closer Look

The age of the software defined datacenter (SDDC) and converged infrastructure is upon us. The benefits of abstracting, pooling and running compute, storage and networking functions together on shared commodity hardware brings unprecedented agility and flexibility to the datacenter while driving actual costs down. The tectonic shift in the datacenter caused by software-defined storage and networking will prove to be as great as, and may prove to be greater than, the shift to virtualized servers during the last decade. While software-defined networking (SDN) is still in its infancy, software-defined storage (SDS) has been developing for quite some time.

LeftHand Networks (now HP StoreVirtual) released its first iSCSI VSA (virtual storage appliance) in 2007, which brought the advantages of software-based storage to small and midsize company environments. LeftHand Networks’ VSA was a virtual machine that hosted a software implementation of LeftHand’s well-regarded iSCSI hardware storage array. Since that time many other vendors have released VSAs, but none have captured the market share of HP’s StoreVirtual VSA. But the release of VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) in March of 2014 could change that as VSAN, with the backing of the virtualization giant, is poised to be a serious contender in the SDS marketplace. Taneja Group thought that it would be interesting to take a closer look at how a mature, well regarded and widely deployed SDS product such as HP StoreVirtual VSA compares to the newest entry in the SDS market: VMware’s VSAN.

The observations we have made for both products are based on hands-on lab testing, but we do not consider this a Technology Validation exercise because we were not able to conduct an apples-to-apples comparison between the offerings, primarily due to the limited hardware compatibility list (HCL) for VMware VSAN. However, the hands-on testing that we were able to conduct gave us a very good understanding of both products. Both products surprised and, more often than not, did not disappoint us. In an ideal world without budgetary constraints, both products may have a place in your datacenter, but they are not by any means interchangeable. We found that one of the products would be more useful for a variety of datacenter storage needs, including some tier 1 use cases, while the other is more suited today to supporting the needs some of tier 2 and tier 3 applications.

Publish date: 08/21/14
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