Scale Computing HC3: A 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.
Scale Computing, an early pioneer in HyperConverged solutions, has released multiple versions of HC3 appliances and now includes the 6th generation of Scale’s HyperCore Operating System. Scale Computing continues to push the boundary in regards to simplicity, value and availability that many SMB IT departments everywhere have come to rely on. 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.
While we did touch upon whether Scale's architecture could scale performance as well as capacity, we focused our testing upon how the seamless integration of storage and compute within HC3 tackles key complexity challenges in the traditional virtual infrastructure.
As it turns out, HC3 is a far different system than the traditional compute and storage systems that we've looked at before. HC3's combination of compute and storage takes place within a scale-out paradigm, where adding more resources is simply a matter of adding additional nodes to a cluster. This immediately brings on more storage and compute resources, and makes adapting and growing the IT infrastructure a no-brainer exercise. On top of this adaptability, virtual machines (VMs) can run on any of the nodes, without any complex external networking. This delivers seamless utilization of all datacenter resources, in a dense and power efficient footprint, while significantly enhancing storage performance.
Meanwhile, within an HC3 cluster, these capabilities are all delivered on top of a uniquely robust system architecture that can tolerate any failure - from a disk to an entire cluster node - and guarantee a level of availability seldom seen by mid-sized customers. Moreover, that uniquely robust, clustered, scale-out architecture can also intermix different generation of nodes in a way that will put an end to painful upgrades by reducing them to simply decommissioning old nodes as new ones are introduced.
HC3’s flexibility, ease of deployment, robustness and a management interface is the simplest and easiest to use that we have seen. This makes HC3 a disruptive game changer for SMB and SME businesses. HC3 stands to banish complex IT infrastructure deployment, permanently alter on-going operational costs, and take application availability to a new level. With those capabilities in focus, single bottom-line observations don’t do HC3 justice. In our assessment, HC3 may take as little as 1/10th the effort to setup and install as traditional infrastructure, 1/4th the effort to configure and deploy a virtual machine (VM) versus doing so using traditional infrastructure, and can banish the planning, performance troubleshooting, and reconfiguration exercises that can consume as much as 25-50% of an IT administrator’s time. HC3 is about delivering on all of these promises simultaneously, and with the additional features we'll discuss, transforming the way SMB/SME IT is done.
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