Separation of computing and storage in a hyper-converged infrastructure


In the beginning, hyperconverged infrastructure was viewed primarily as a consolidation measure, a way to bring computing, storage, networking, and management together into a single package and to offset some of the increasing costs and complexities in corporate data centers. And in contrast to convergent infrastructure offerings, HCI bundles computing and storage in a single unit within an appliance that is sold by established hardware OEMs such as Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Cisco Systems as well as smaller pure-plays such as Nutanix.

HCI’s role has evolved as the market matures, with hyper-converged infrastructure becoming a key asset in the rapidly growing hybrid cloud scene as business demands for cloud-like features such as automation and ease of use increase. The software that goes into these systems is just as important as the hardware components today, with companies like VMware and Nutanix – who have grown into much stronger software providers with a greater focus on OEM partnerships and subscription sales – playing a much more central role Role at HCI.

All of this has contributed to a continued growing HCI market, with global sales increasing 7.4 percent year over year to $ 2.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020 and the segment increasing 54.2 percent of the larger total convergent market Infrastructure (CI). which, according to IDC, also includes an integrated infrastructure as well as certified and reference systems.

At the top of that list is Dell Technologies, which works with VMware to develop the VxRail systems that leverage Dell PowerEdge servers, storage and HCI system software. It also includes VMware’s virtualization technology and VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) hybrid cloud platform, as well as VMware’s NSX-T network and Tanzu Kubernetes software, another nod to the evolution of HCI’s role in IT Business environments. Dell owns 32.8 percent of the market and saw sales jump 11.1 percent to nearly 802 million US dollars in the fourth quarter, according to IDC. HPE is by far in second place with a market share of 13.5 percent.

“While consolidation is certainly still a driving function, the real thing is to simplify operations, automate it, and put more work on the vendor to provide IT that is much easier to maintain and operate,” Shannon Champion , Vice President of Product Marketing for Primary Storage for HCI and CI at Dell, said at a recent press conference, adding, “Customers tell us they really appreciate the ease of use and want to add IT value to the value chain. When it comes to a hyper-converged driver, it’s more about consolidation than it is. “

Dell, which has more than 12,400 VxRail customers, is shipping new features and functionality for VxRail this week to strengthen its lead in the marketplace and highlight its intense collaboration and engineering efforts with VMware even as it spins off the ( Dell owns approximately 81 percent of VMware shares).

The improvements include expected hardware and software upgrades, but at the same time the company is offering dynamic VxRail nodes that transform the legacy of HCI appliances – the amalgamation of compute and storage – by allowing companies to separate the two within VxRail, so that the systems run more efficiently both on-site and in hybrid cloud environments.

“Depending on the customer environment and the workloads being run, some workloads can be more memory-intensive and others more compute-intensive,” said Rick Reddy, senior director of product management for HCI and CI at Dell. “In the past, hyperconvergence required you to scale the nodes relatively evenly, so if you had a computationally heavy workload when you needed more processing power, you would have to add an additional node with storage, although you may not need it. The same was the other way around – if you had something very memory intensive and you ran out of memory, you had to add an additional node that contained computing power, but you may not need that additional computing resource. This allows us to separate the two, and although we split the two into nodes that allow you to scale compute independently and nodes that have the storage and can add more storage to them, they are still running the same VxRail -System software and they have the entire lifecycle management and validation. “

VxRail appliances can now include external storage options by leveraging VMware’s vSAN HCI Mesh, which distributes VMware vSAN storage capacity across clusters. If there is unused vSAN capacity in one cluster, it can now be used by another cluster, Hurley said. At the same time, VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail can also leverage dynamic nodes to use Dell EMC storage products as primary storage, including PowerStore, PowerMax, and Unity XT.

“If there are any [unused vSAN] Using resources within an existing VxRail cluster, we can use these dynamic nodes to create a dynamic compute cluster that can point to this unused vSAN storage, making more effective use of your overall environment, ”said Nancy Hurley, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Dell for HCI and CI. “On the other hand, some customers may want to handle some data-centric workloads in a VCF-on-VxRail environment. There may be some workloads that you may have wanted to keep in the past [a storage tier] or they may want to use some of the data services available on some storage arrays, such as: B. PowerStore and PowerMax and Unity. This allows customers to attach the additional storage as primary storage and still use the operating model that you get with VCF on VxRail. “

On the hardware side, Dell VxRail is upgrading to the latest PowerEdge systems, including Intel’s “Ice Lake” Xeon SP processors and optional Optane 200 series persistent memory – with 32 percent more bandwidth than the previous generation – and AMD’s “Milan” Epyc 7003 server chips. In addition, the VxRail V-Series appliances offer Nvidia’s A40 or A100 tensor core GPU accelerators that, in combination with the Nvidia AI Enterprise software suite and the NVM Express protocol, provide advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine Learning applications are targeted.

The P-Series systems have 20 percent more capacity for workloads like the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) – which has grown over the past year due to the sudden shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic – and the e- Series has 50 percent more PCIe slots to accommodate network or fiber channel cards.

Software updates include tools in the HCI system software – including the configuration portal and node image management – that enable organizations to provision clusters on their own schedules, including validation and orchestration, which is important at a time when organizations are highly decentralized and distributed manage environments. At the same time, Dell is moving up its lifecycle management functions to integrate NSX-T and Tanzu in a single upgrade cycle and upgrade with an Nvidia AI Enterprise and VMware installation package.

Hurley said that VxRail users are increasingly turning to Nvidia GPUs, adding, “At first we might see this only for VDI implementations, but now we’re seeing a lot of adoption for AI and ML and a number of other uses. We’re really focused on extending that ease of use in lifecycle management to the Nvida GPU. Now customers can get the bit from Nvidia for each of the GPUs they use, upload them to our lifecycle management and also easily update their GPUs. “

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