Tag Archives: hyperconverged

HPE Hyper Converged 380 – A look under the hood

This posting is ~3 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

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:

  • Management
  • vMotion
  • 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
  • credentials
  • VMware licenses

After the deployment, you have to install the StoreVirtual VSA licenses. Then you can create datastores and, finally, VMs.

hpehc380_ux

HPE/ hpw.com

Summary

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.

Is Nutanix the perfect fit for SMBs?

This posting is ~4 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

There’s a world below clouds and enterprise environments with thousands of VMs and hundered or thousands of hosts. A world that consists of maximal three hosts. I’m working with quite a few customers, that are using VMware vSphere Essentials Plus. Those environments consist typically of two or three hosts and something between 10 and 100 VMs. Just to mention it: I don’t have any VMware vSphere Essentials customer. I can’t see any benefit for buying these license. Most of these environments are designed for a lifeime of three to four years. After that time, I come again and replace it with new gear. I can’t remember any customer that upgraded his VMware vSphere Essentials Plus. Even if the demands to the IT infrastructure increases, the license stays the same. The hosts and storage gets bigger, but the requirements stays the same: HA, vMotion, sometimes vSphere Replication, often (vSphere API for) Data Protection. Maybe this is a german thing and customers outside of german are growing faster and invest more in their IT.

Hyperconverged, scale-out IT infrastructure for SMBs?

Think enterprise and break it down to smaller customers. That is said easily, but we saw so many technologies coming from the enterprise down to the SMBs over the last years. Think about SAN. 15 years ago, no SMB even thought about it. Today it’s standard.

I’ve taken this statement from the Nutanix webseite.

Nutanix simplifies datacenter infrastructure by integrating server and storage resources into a turnkey appliance that is deployed in just 30 to 60 minutes, and runs any application at any scale.

When working with SMBs, most of them have to deal with a tight budget. This means that they use the maximum principle, to get most hardware, software and service for their money. Customers do not like long implementation phases. Long implementation phases means, that lots of money can’t invested in hardware or software. Every single Euro/ Dollar/ $CURRENCY invested for service can’t be invested in hardware and software.

Another important requirement for the most SMBs is simple operation. I know a lot customers with only one, two or three people, that doing all that stuff around helpdesk, server, networking etc. IT infrastructure, or IT in general, isn’t the main focus for many of them. It should just work. Every day. Until it’s replaced.This applies not only to the area of server virtualization, it applies to IT in general. This often requires lean and simple designs, designs that follow the principle of error prevention. Because of this, it’s a good practice to reduce the components used in a design and automate where it’s useful and valuable. And if a solution is robust, then this can only be an advantage.

Why Nutanix?

In my opinion, simplicity is the key to sucess. If you see Nutanix for the first time, you will be surprised how easy it is to manage. Deployment, operation, updates. It’s slick, it’s simple, it’s lightweight. Everything the customer needs, is combined on 2U. The same applies to the support. I’ve followed the discussion on Twitter between Nutanix and VMware on who may/ can/ is allowed to provide support for VMware. It was started by a blog post of Chuck Hollis (10 Reasons why VMware is leading the hyperconverged industry). To make it short: I don’t share his opinion. In my opinion, Nutanix focus on customer experience is the key.

Simplicity and the ability to change

I don’t think that pre-configured systems like Fujitsu Cluster-in-a-boxVCE vBlocks or HP ConvergedSystems are the answer to simplified IT infrastructure for SMBs. They are not hyperconverged. They are pre-configured. That’s an important difference. Pre-configured doesn’t mean that it’s easy to manage or fast and easy to implement. SMBs want hyperconverged platforms to simplify their IT infrastructure. Okay, so why not buy any other offered hyperconverged platform on the market, like SimpliVity OmniCubeHP ConvergedSystems HC or VMware EVO:RAIL? Because these offerings are focused on VMware. The question was: Why Nutanix? Because you can run KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi on it. That’s an unique selling point (USP). You can offer the customer a hyperconverged platform, that allows him to change to another hypervisor later. I think we all agree that VMware is the market leader. But Microsoft is catching up. All features of the Essentials Plus kit can be delivered with Microsoft Hyper-V (and much more if you add SCVMM). Remeber: I talk about the typical Essentials Plus customer. VMware vSphere Essentials Plus includes all what a customer needs: Failover, live migration, data protection, and if needed, replication. In my experience, DRS, Host Profiles and vSphere Distributed Switches are nice, but SMBs can’t take advantage of it (exceptions are not excluded…). Add the Microsofts SCVMM and the gap between VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V is even smaller. The licensing of Microsoft Windows Server makes it interesting for customers to take a look at Microsoft Hyper-V, especially if you take the licensing costs into account. Sure, it’s not all about CAPEX (capital expenditure), OPEX (operational expenditures) is also important. Don’t get me wrong, I love VMware. But it’s important to be prepared. If the customer decides to change to Microsoft Hyper-V, you should be able to deliver it.

How can it look like?

Depending on the computing and storage needs, take a closer look at the Nutanix NX-1000 or NX-3000 series. I think a NX-1350 or NX-3350/ 3360 block is a good catch. Add a VMware vSphere Essentials Plus kit (or some Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 licenses… maybe also System Center 2012), Veeam Backup Essentials, something to store the backups on, like a HP StoreOnce 2700, and your favorite switches for 10 GbE networking connectivity (for example two HP 2920 switches in a stack with 10 GbE modules). A complete datacenter on 5U. This is only an example, but I think this should fit for most SMB customers (depending how you define SMB…).

Famous last words

Is Nutanix the perfect fit for SMBs? Yes! Easy to implement, easy to manage and robust. Nutanix stands out with its platform independence. This allows customers to have a choice in regard of the used hypervisor. Investment protection is a valuable asset, if you constantly have to fight for budgets.

VMware jumps on the fast moving hyper-converged train

This posting is ~5 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

The whole story began with a tweet and a picture:

This picture  in combination with rumors about Project Mystic have motivated Christian Mohn to publish an interesting blog post. Today, two and a half months later, “Marvin” or project Mystic got its final name: EVO:RAIL.

What is EVO:RAIL?

Firstly, we have to learn a new acronym: Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance (HCIA). EVO:RAIL will be exactly this: A HCIA. IMHO EVO:RAIL is VMwares try to jump on the fast moving hyper-converged train. EVO:RAIL combines different VMware products (vSphere Enterprise Plus, vCenter Server, Virtual SAN and vCenter Log Insight) along with EVO:RAIL deployment, configuration and management to a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance. Appliance? Yes, an appliance. A single stock keeping unit (SKU) including hardware, software and support. To be honest: VMware will no try to sell hardware. The hardware will be provided by partners (currently Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Inspur, NetOne and SuperMicro).

VMware Chief Technologist Duncan Epping described four advantages of EVO:RAIL in a today published blog post:

EVO:RAIL is software-defined. Based on well-known VMware products, the EVO:RAIL engine simplifies the deployment, management and configuration of the building blocks.

EVO:RAIL is simple: The EVO:RAIL engine allows you to reduce the time from rack & stack until you can power-on your first VM. You need less time for basic tasks, like creation of VMs or for the patch management of the hosts. If you need more compute or storage capacity, simply add additional 2U blocks (currently max 4 blocks > 16 nodes).

EVO:RAIL is highly resilient: A 2U block consists of four nodes. This results in a single four host vSphere cluster, with a single VSAN datastore and full support für VMware HA, DRS, FT etc. This facilitate no downtime for VMs during planned maintenance or node failures.

EVO:RAIL allows customers to choose: Customers can obtain EVO:RAIL using a single SKU from their preferred EVO:RAIL partner. The partner provides hardware, software and support for the EVO:RAIL HCIA.

Each HCIA node will provide at least:

  • 2x Intel Xeon E5-2620 v2 six-core CPUs
  • at least 192GB of memory
  • 1x SLC SATADOM or SAS HDD as boot device
  • 3x SAS 10K RPM 1.2TB HDD for the VMware Virtual SAN datastore
  • 1x 400GB MLC enterprise-grade SSD for read/ write cache
  • 1x Virtual SAN-certified pass-through disk controller
  • 2x 10GbE NIC ports (either 10GBase-T or SFP+)
  • 1x 1GbE IPMI port for out-of-band management

This results in a four node vSphere cluster with 48 cores, 768 GB RAM and 14,4 TB raw disk space on just 2U. A single block allows you to run 100 average-sized (2 vCPU, 4GB RAM, 60GB with redundancy) general-purpose VMs, or 250 View VMs (2vCPU, 2GB RAM, 32GB linked clones).

My thoughts

Looks like a Nutanix clone, isn’t it? Yes, it’s a HCIA like a Nutanix block. But it’s focused on VMware (you can’t run Microsoft Hyper-V or KVM on it) and it will be sold by EVO:RAIL partners. This allows VMware to use a much wider distribution channel. It will be fun to see how other hyper-converged companies will react to this announcement. Unfortunately HP isn’t listed as a HCIA partner company. But DELL is listed. Fun fact: DELL and Nutanix signed a contract in June 2014.

Strategic Relationship Significantly Expands Access and Distribution of Nutanix Solutions with Dell’s World-Class Hardware, Services and Marketing to Accelerate Adoption of Web-scale Converged Infrastructure in the Enterprise

Take a look into the “Introduction to VMware EVO: RAIL” whitepaper. There are other great blog posts about EVO:RAIL:

Duncan EppingMeet VMware EVO:RAIL™ – A New Building Block for your SDDC
Christian MohnNO MORE SPECULATION: IT’S OFFICIAL EVO:RAIL IT IS
Chris WahlVMware Announces Software Defined Infrastructure with EVO:RAIL
Marcel van den BergVMware announces EVO:RAIL , a turnkey appliance  offering SDDC in a box featuring vSphere  and Virtual SAN
Marco BroekenVMworld 2014: Introducing VMware EVO: RAIL
Vladan SEGETVMware EVO:RAIL – New Hyper-Converged Solution By VMware
Eric SloofVMware EVO: RAIL Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance