VMware, which only last week released a major upgrade to its vSAN storage software package, now has a new use case for it: inside the new hyper-converged data center appliance its parent company, EMC, and its vBlock-making hardware arm, VCE, introduced Feb. 16.
EMC and VMware, in unveiling the VCE VxRail Appliance during a media conference call Feb. 16, described it as the "only integrated and jointly engineered hyper-converged infrastructure appliances for VMware environments."
The designations get a little tricky here. VCE (for Virtual Computing Environment) already makes vBlock and VxBlock converged data center systems for big data, scientific and other high-end computing tasks. VxRack is the Rackscale hyper-converged converged infrastructure (HCI) for next-generation, scale-out mobile, cloud and distributed Tier 2 applications.
Potential buyers should note that Cisco and Oracle also have jointly engineered and converged compute, storage and analytics systems on vBlocks similar to this one, using VMware alongside their own apps and middleware. Even though there is a lot of functionality enclosed in one vBlock node, these deployments still can get complicated; good admins definitely are needed for these.
Don't Need a Lot of IT Management
The highly automated VxRail appliances, which can be outfitted with either hybrid hard drive-and-NAND flash storage or all-flash storage, are designed to turbo-charge VMware production use cases in a virtually turnkey platform, EMC said.
By its nature, the VxRail tightly integrates virtualization, compute, storage and data protection. For the most part, no specialists are needed here, either.
Users can start small with a few virtual machines and scale to thousands of VMs using a predictable, pay-as-you-grow approach, EMC said.
VxRails are available in a set of configurations and scale points, but they aren't exactly inexpensive. Entry-level systems for small and midsize businesses and remote offices start at a list price of $60,000; options for performance-intensive workloads can increase up to 76TB of flash.
VxRail appliances are fully loaded with integrated EMC mission-critical data services, including replication, backup and cloud tiering at no additional charge. EMC RecoverPoint for virtual machines provides per-VM replication and automated disaster recovery for critical workloads.
Virtual SAN active-active stretch clusters provide site level, zero data loss protection. VCE VxRail Manager provides hardware monitoring with up-to-the-minute holistic notifications about the state of applications, and VMs. VxRail appliances use EMC's own cloud tiering to connect to more than 20 public clouds, such as VMware vCloud Air, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. VxRail will soon add Virtustream, which can provide an additional 10TB of on-demand cloud storage per appliance, EMC said.
A Bit of Background on VCE
You may recall that VCE was established in 2009 as a shared-equity spinoff company owned by EMC, VMware, Cisco Systems and Intel. EMC bought out Cisco's 35 percent stake in the company in October 2014 and now owns 95 percent of the firm. Now Dell is in the process of acquiring EMC, a deal that isn't expected to be completed until this summer or fall.
We should be sure to get the branding correct here: "Hyper-converged" differs from "converged" in that all—not just a few—of a system's functions are included in one physical unit.
For example, a hyper-converged computing system will have not only computing, storage and networking controls in one box—as a converged system would—but it will also include additional functions, such as deduplication, compression and tiering in the storage portion, encryption and/or high-level authentication in security, and hypervisor in the computing node.
The VxRail appliances are all of the "hyperconverged" persuasion.
VxRail appliances, sold by EMC, VCE and their channel partners, are available now. All-flash VxRail appliances with modern data reduction capabilities will be available in the second quarter of 2016.