In March 2016, HPE CEO Meg Whitman announced a ProLiant-based HCI solution, that should be easier to use and cheaper than Nutanix.
This isn’t HPEs first dance on this floor. In August 2015, HP launched the Hyper Converged 250 System (HC250), which is based on the Apollo server platform. The HW design of the HC250 comes close to a Nutanix Block, because the Apollo platform supports up to four nodes in 2U. Let me say this clear: The Hyper Converged 380 (HC380) is not a replacement for the HC250! And before the HC250, HPE offered the Converged System 200-HC StoreVirtual and 200-HC EVO:RAIL (different models).
The HC380 is based on the ProLiant DL380 Gen9 platform. The DL380 Gen9 is one of the, if not the best selling x86 server on the market. Instead of developing everything from scratch, HPE build their new HC380 from different already available HPE products. With one exception: HPE OneView User Experience (UX). IT was developed from scratch and consolidates all management and monitoring tasks into a single console. The use of already available components was the reason for the low time-to-market (TTM) of the HC380.
Currently, the HC380 can only run VMware vSphere (HPE CloudSystem uses VMware vSphere). Support for Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer will be added later. If you wish to run Microsoft Hyper-V, check the HC250 or wait until it’s supported with the HC380.
What flavor would you like?
The HC380 is available in three editions (use cases):
- HC380 (Virtualization)
- HC380 (HPE CloudSystem)
- HC380 (VDI)
All three use cases are orderable using a single SKU and include two DL380 Gen9 nodes (2U). You can add up to 14 expansion nodes, so that you can have up to 16 dual-socket DL380 Gen9.
Each node comes with two Intel Xeon E5 CPUs. The exact CPU model has to be selected before ordering. The same applies to the memory (128 GB or 256 GB per node, up to 1,5 TB) and disk groups (up to three disk groups, each with 4,5 to 8 TB usable capacity per block, 8 drives either SSD/ HDD or all HDD with a maximum of 25 TB usable per node). The memory and disk group configuration depends on the specific use case (virtualization, CloudSystem, VDI). The same applies to the number of network ports (something between 8x 1 GbE and 6x 10 GbE plus 4x 1 GbE). For VDI, customers can add NVIDIA GRID K1, GRID K2 or Telsa M60 cards.
VMware vSphere 6 Enterprise or Enterprise Plus are pre-installed and licences can be bought from HPE. Interesting note from the QuickSpecs:
NOTE: HPE Hyper Converged 380 for VMware vSphere requires valid VMware vSphere Enterprise or higher, and vCenter licenses. VMware licenses can only be removed from the order if it is confirmed that the end-customer has a valid licenses in place (Enterprise License Agreement (ELA), vCloud Air Partner or unused Enterprise Purchasing Program tokens).
Hewlett Packard Enterprise supports VMware vSphere Enterprise, vSphere Enterprise Plus and Horizon on the HPE Hyper Converged 380.
No support for vSphere Standard or Essentials (Plus)! Let’s see how HPE will react on the fact, that VMware will phase out vSphere Enterprise licenses.
The server includes 3y/ 3y/ 3y onsite support with next business day response. Nevertheless, at least 3-year HPE Hyper Converged 380 solution support is requires according to the latest QuickSpecs.
What’s under the hood?
As I already mentioned, the HC380 was built from well known HPE products. Only HPE OneView User Experience (UX) was developed from scratch. OneView User Experience (UX) consolidates the following tasks into a single console (source QuickSpecs):
- Virtual machine (VM) vending (create, edit, delete)
- Hardware/driver and appliance UI frictionless updates
- Advanced capacity and performance analytics (optional)
- Backup and restore of appliance configuration details
- Role-based access
- Integration with existing LDAP or Active Directory
- Physical and virtual hardware monitoring
Pretty cool fact: HPE OneView User Experience (UX) will be available for the HC250 later this year. Part of a 2-node cluster are not only the two DL380 Gen9 servers, but also three VMs:
- HC380 Management VM
- HC380 OneView VM
- HC380 Management UI VM
The Management VM is used for VMware vCenter (local install) and HPE OneView for vCenter. You can use a remote vCenter (or a vCenter Server Appliance), but you have to make sure that the remote vCenter has HPE Oneview for vCenter integrated. The OneView VM running HPE OneView for for HW/ SW management. The Management UI VM is running HPE OneView User Experience.
The shared storage is provided by HPE StoreVirtual VSA. A VSA is running on each node. As you might know, StoreVirtual VSA comes with an all-inclusive license. No need to buy additional licenses. You can have it all: Snapshots, Remote Copy, Clustering, Thin Provisioning, Tiering etc. The StoreVirtual VSA delivers sustainable performance, a good VMware vSphere integration and added value, for example support for Veeam Storage Snapshots.
When dealing with a 2-node cluster, the 25 TB usable capacity per node means in fact 25 TB usable for the whole 2-node cluster. This is because of the Network RAID 1 between the two StoreVirtual VSA. The data is mirrored between the VSAs. When adding more nodes, the data is striped accross the nodes in the cluster (Network RAID 10+2).
Also important in case of the 2-node cluster: The quorum. At least two StoreVirtual VSA build a cluster. As in every cluster, you need some kind of quorum. StoreVirtual 12.5 added support for a NFSv3 based quorum witness. This is in fact a NFS file share, which has to be available for both nodes. This is only supported in 2-node clusters and I highly recommend to use this. I have a customer that uses a Raspberry Pi for this…
Start the engine
You have to meet some requirements before you can start.
- 1 GbE connections for each nodes iLO and 1 GbE ports
- 1 GbE or 10 GbE connections for each node FlexLOM ports
- Windows-based computer directly connected to a node (MacOS X or Linux should also work)
- VMware vSphere Enterprise or Enterprise Plus licenses
- enough IP addresses and VLANs (depending on the use case)
For general purpose server virtualization, you need at least three subnets and three VLANs:
- Storage (iSCSI)
Although you have the choice between a flat (untagged) and a VLAN-tagged network design, I would always recomment a VLAN-tagged approach. It’s highly recommended to use multiple VLANs to get the traffic seperated. The installation guide includes worksheets and examples to help you planning the deployment. For a 2-node cluster you need at least:
- 5 IP addresses for the management network
- 2 IP addresses for the vMotion network
- 8 IP addresses for the iSCSI storage network
You should leave space for expansion nodes. A proper planning saves you later trouble.
HP OneView InstantOn is used for the automated deployment. It guides you through the necessary configuration steps. HPE says that the deployment requires less than 60 minutes and all you need to enter are
- IP addresses
- VMware licenses
After the deployment, you have to install the StoreVirtual VSA licenses. Then you can create datastores and, finally, VMs.
Hyper-Converged has nothing to do with the form factor. Despite the fact that a 2-node cluster comes in 4U, the HC380 has everything you would expect from a HCIA. The customers will decide if HPE held promise. The argument for the HC380 shouldn’t be the lower price compared to Nutanix or other HCI players. Especially, HPE should not repeat the mistake of the HC200 EVO:RAIL: To buggy and to expensive. The HC380 combines known and mature products (ProLiant DL380 Gen9, StoreVirtual VSA, OneView). It’s now up to HPE.
I have several small and mid-sized customers that are running two to six nodes VMware vSphere environments. Also the HC380 for VDI can be very interesting.
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