When I first read about the idea of a building block for virtual environments that in a single unit contained compute, storage and hypervisor I though this sounded like a great idea. The solution I was reading about at the time was Vblock, which whilst offering a closer cooperation between storage, compute, networking and hypervisor vendor it was not a true converged system, since each component was separate. It was up to several upstarts such as Nutanix which pioneered the technology and Simplivity to take the converged idea and really run with it.
For those that are new to the idea of hyper-converged storage the principle is simple to combine compute, storage and hypervisor in a single box. In a hyper-converged solution the internal disks of the individual nodes are pooled together using software defined storage to create a single storage pool. The advantages of hyper convergence are primarily simplicity; 1 system to manage vs multiple components, less cabling and increased performance since the data is close to the hosts and scales in a linear fashion as you add more nodes.
VMware announced their software defined storage solution last year in the guise of Vsan. Vsan whilst doing many things, fundamentally allowed the internal storage of several VMware hypervisors to be pooled and accessed as a shared storage platform. Given VMware then had the hypervisor, the pooled storage element and close relationships with all the major server vendors, it was only a matter of time before they entered the hyper-converged storage market. This came in the shape of EVO:RAIL. This week HP announced they would be joining the list of vendors who were available as part of the EVO:RAIL offering.
Whilst all the major vendors are involved in the EVO:RAIL program, it was always going to be interesting to see which of the major vendors was going to be able to take the fight to the start-ups, with an offering they can truly call their own. All the major vendors had the compute component and the close relationship with VMware, but what was missing for most was a software defined storage offering which would allow local storage to be shared across nodes. This was HP’s trump card, they already had StoreVirtual which was exactly what was needed to complete an all in one hyper-converged storage offering
HP announced their hyper-converged system at VMworld this week. The HP converged system will be available in two flavours the CS 240-HC which is SAS based and the CS 242-HC which has a more beefy processor, more RAM plus combination of SAS and SSD drives. Each model consists of 4 nodes and is scalable to 32. Each box is a combination of Vsphere 5.5, StoreVirtual VSA plus HP OneView software. HP are advising that deployment will be very simple and that it will be possible to have a working system in 15 minutes.
Whilst the start-ups have been selling their hyper-converged solutions as SAN killers I don’t see that this is the case. I don’t think this is an all or nothing decision, there will be times where a hyper-converged solution will be best suited and others where a more conventional SAN would be the best fit. HP will be able to offer the new hyper-converged solution alongside 3Par as complementary technologies. Peer motion, which allows a live online migration of data is already available on both 3Par and StoreVirtual although migration between the 2 devices is not currently possible. It would be great to see data mobility between the two devices in the future to further enhance a converged datacentre infrastructure.