Understanding The Layers Of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

Guest post by Michael Haag, Product Line Marketing Manager in the Storage and Availability Business Unit at VMware.

We’re almost half way through 2016 and it continues to shape up to be the year of hyper-convergence. Combine faster CPUs, lower cost flash (with exciting technologies on the horizon) and software innovation with the majority of data centers using server virtualization, now is the time to extend existing infrastructure investments with newer, modern solutions.

Three months ago, VMware introduced Virtual SAN 6.2 and gave this hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) stack a name: VMware Hyper-Converged Software (VMware HCS). Virtual SAN 6.2 introduced a major set of new features to help improve space efficiency and management (check out the What’s New in 6.2 blog for those details). The latter is a marketing name to help us refer to the software stack of Virtual SAN, vSphere and vCenter Server.

With all the various terms and names being used to refer to HCI and the components, I want to take a few minutes to help clarify the terms we use at VMware and break down our view of HCI.

Does Virtual SAN = HCI?

Short answer: no. We sometimes use HCI, VMware HCS and even Virtual SAN in similar ways to refer to a solution where compute and storage functions are delivered from the hypervisor software on a common x86 platform (i.e. HCI). While all those terms are related to HCI, they refer to specific components or groups of components that make up a full hyper-converged infrastructure solution.

It’s important to understand that Virtual SAN on its own is not hyper-converged infrastructure. Virtual SAN is software-defined storage that is uniquely embedded directly in vSphere. Virtual SAN refers to the software that virtualizes the compute layer by abstracting and pooling together the direct attached storage devices (SSDs, HDDs, PCIe, etc…) into shared storage.

Because Virtual SAN is so tightly integrated with (and dependent on) vSphere, whenever you talk about running Virtual SAN, the assumption is the compute virtualization piece from vSphere is there too.

Similarly, vSphere with Virtual SAN requires hardware to run it—as someone reminded me recently, software without hardware is about as useful as an ejection seat on a helicopter (think about that one for a sec if needed).

vmware blog image 1

As the image shows, HCI refers to the overall solution that includes two major components: hyper-converged software and industry-standard hardware. Without both of those pieces, you do not have HCI. From VMware, our software stack is VMware HCS, but that stack can look different for different vendors.

VMware has a unique advantage in that VMware HCS is a tightly integrated software stack embedded in the kernel and is the only vendor that provides such level of integration.

This architectural advantage delivers a number of benefits including: Performance, simplicity, reliability and efficiency.

Do all HCI solutions look the same?

While all HCI solutions generally follow this blueprint of having a software stack built on a hypervisor that runs on industry-standard hardware, in the end they can look very different and can have varying degrees of integration.

All HCI solutions generally follow the same blueprint outlined above. They start with server virtualization (some hypervisor, which is more times than not vSphere) and then add in software-defined storage capabilities, which can be delivered tightly integrated like Virtual SAN or bolted on as a virtual storage appliance (separate VM on each server). That software is then loaded onto an x86 platform.

Some vendors package that together into a turnkey appliance that can be bought as a single sku, making those HCI layers less transparent and the deployment easier. One example of that type of HCI solution includes VCE VxRail HCI Appliance (which we’ve done with EMC) and is built on the full VMware HCS stack.

VMware HCS also offers you the ability to customize your hardware platform. You can choose from over 100 pre-certified x86 platforms from all of the major server vendors. We call these hardware options our Virtual SAN Ready Nodes.

An advantage to the Ready Node approach is that you can choose to deploy hardware that you already know. Equally important, but often overlooked, is that the relationships that you have with a partner or vendor, the procurement process you have in place and the support agreements with your preferred server vendor can all be leveraged. No need to create new support and procurement silos. No need to learn a new hardware platform including how to manage, install and configure it.

You can also read unbiased VMware Virtual SAN reviews from the tech community on IT Central Station.



HP vs. Juniper vs. Cisco vs. Avaya: Review Roundup for Ethernet Switches

This week we present a Review Roundup of the latest reviews of ethernet switches from the IT Central Station community. To see full product comparisons on IT Central Station:

Read what our real users have to say about the solutions they are using:Ethernet Switches- Cisco vs Avaya vs Juniper vs HP

HP – “Some valuable features include cost per Gigabit Port, Layer 3 Capability, POE SupportBy reducing the need for an in-line power source over Ethernet using injectors for small devices, we are able to power wireless access points. Additionally, cameras, and telephones from a single device. ROI is 350% due to stability in the product, low power use, and administrative requirements such as down time.” Read the full HP review.

Avaya “One of the reasons we selected this product was the per port cost ratio as it is very low while compared to other similar products. The device can be remotely managed using various remote management protocols like SNMP, RMON, and HTTP etc. We did face problems while finding the right connecting cable for administering the device, but once the device is on the network it can be easily managed. We also found the web interface for managing the device, to be very useful.” Read the full review here.

Cisco – “EA Cisco Network Structure consisted of 3 Layers (Core, Distribution & Access). We used the FWSM (Firewall Services Module) to route the traffic and as a gateway to get to the WAN. As a result, we were able to collapse the Core Layer into the Distribution Layer with a few blade modules (FWSM, SUP & Ethernet).” Read the full review here.

Juniper vs. Cisco “I prefer Juniper for the following reasons: Cleaner separation of data plane from control plane, hierarchical config design and easier rollback; I think there are less bugs/vulnerabilities in Junos vs IOS. ” Read the full review.

Visit IT Central Station to read more Ethernet Switch reviews including HP, Avaya, Cisco, NETGEAR, D-Link, Brocade and many more. You can also look at helpful comparison pages like Cisco vs. Juniper, Brocade vs. Netgear to help your research!

Confluence vs. SharePoint vs. Jive vs. Drupal—Corporate Portals Bumper Cars

Coporate Portals

Corporate portal solutions for collaboration have become very popular lately, and being able to distinguish where you’ll do best and with which solution can be situational. You might use one of them for a Wiki, and another to manage your document sharing. Before jumping on the track, though, it’s good to take a look at what others are saying.

To see the full product comparisons, see the following:

Confluence vs. SharePoint

Jive vs. Drupal

Here are a few highlights from our community of real users:

Confluence“The ease at which any employee can curate content and the ease in which people can discover meaningful and important information to get their job done. Improvements to My Organization: We are hard core users so there are a lot of examples: At HomeAway we have product development teams for our sites, they use confluence both to document product roadmaps, and for the integration with JIRA to relay to stakeholders the updated status. It is the only place people go at HomeAway to get information.” Read the full review here.

SharePoint – “There are a lot of reasons to buy into or upgrade to SharePoint 2013: the latest iteration of Microsoft’s portal-web development platform represents a massive, multi-million dollar upgrade on the previous version of SharePoint (a version that was typically oversold given its underwhelming if not frustrating performance and lack of execution). SharePoint 2013 is a massive upgrade to 2010: noticeable improvements to social computing (social networking via My Sites), mobile computing (PDA access and accessibility), Office integration, cloud integration, search and more. But it’s not all good news, and it’s not a solution that fits every organization.” Read the full review here.

Jive – “Blogging, sharing, search, mobile use Full integration of MS Office and Outlook. Colleagues are more informed, easier to find content, silo breaking. A visual navigator would be very useful as many colleagues have an issue to find their way and connect the dots…The decision to use Jive as Intranet was practically taken over night and we went from a slow two unit pilot to a big bang approach, including shutting down the old intranet.” Read the full review here.

Drupal – “Because of Drupal, we now have the ability to provide our customers with multilingual, multi-regional content to an extent that would not have been possible otherwise. There are not enough Drupal developers to satisfy demand. Upgrading to new major versions has historically been complex and difficult. Hopefully the migration functionality being built for Drupal 8 will ease this work. Read the full Drupal review here.

We know what you’re thinking, the bumper cars and vendor competition seems a bit of stretch. You might not even have had the pleasure of going on this kind of ride before. Trust us, it’s a bit fun to bump each other in these cars with your friends or family without hurting anyone.

On IT Central Station, you can do exactly that, kind of bump and compare other solutions with your peers. Read these and other reviews of Corporate Portal. You can also look at side by side comparisons of these solutions on one of our useful comparison pages: Confluence vs. Sharepoint, Confluence vs. Drupal, or any other products of your choice!

Review Roundup: IT Infrastructure Monitoring

This week’s Review Roundup is about IT Infrastructure Monitoring. This is a fast growing category at IT Central Station and our community of real users has a lot to say about the solutions they are using. Here are a few useful excerpts: magnifying-glass-450690_640

ScienceLogic – “ScienceLogic works with us to solve our problems and make our services better. We were able to reduce faults and nuisance alarms by 40 percent within a short time of implementing and using the ScienceLogic platform.  We chose the ScienceLogic platform because it really met and exceeded all of the requirements that we had put forth in the RFI. We will be moving a lot more services off premises to cloud providers and ScienceLogic already provides monitoring capabilities for public cloud providers. It fits in very well with what we expect to be doing in the future.” Read the full review here.

CA Unified Infrastructure Management (previously Nimsoft Monitor) – “The scalability of the product and heterogeneous OS coverage is really what sets this product apart from others. Other features like synthetic (e2e) transaction monitoring, OOTB application support as well as the UMP (Unified Monitoring Portal) are the icing on the cake. CA UIM is really built for the MSP and multi-tenant environments, although companies of all sizes are able to benefit from it. My company is a managed service provider and there are really no other products that allow us to manage multiple customer environments like UIM. I’ve heard that there is now a free tool (CA UIM Snap) for up to 30 devices, but I haven’t used it yet.” Read the full review here.

Nagios – “Nagios is an open source monitoring tool for monitoring network services. Installation is quite easy and the interface is user-friendly and configurable. We can monitor disk space, CPU utilization, memory usage, host availability, NFS availability and a lot of other things. Nagios provides most features by default, however to add more services to it, it requires additional plugins … So far, clustering and failover of Nagios is not available…” Read the full review here.

You can look at other reviews in this category like Zabbix, more ScienceLogic and CA UIM reviews, as well as side-by-side comparisons to help your research process (Nagios vs. CA UIM, Zabbix vs. Nagios for starters!)

MicroStrategy vs Tableau—Enterprise Vendor Boxing Match

Enterprise vendor comparisons such as the one here for MicroStrategy vs Tableau, help you evaluate what real users are saying—their implementation tips, tricks, and gotchas. View them as boxing matches that might last several rounds.MicroStrategy vs Tableau

Just as in a boxing match, you can be a spectator to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the players—or the strategies used by vendors in the ring—before investing in a solution or even talking to the sales teams. You want to get a sense for what’s really going to work in your environment to save you both time and money.

The first place you might want to visit is our comparison page for these two products. In addition, you can read highlights from some of our real user reviews:

One reviewer, Vijay Madhavan, compares both products and says that: “Tableau has found its sweet-spot as an agile discovery tool that analysts use to create and share insights. It is also the tool of choice for rapid prototyping of dashboards. Within a MicroStrategy project, applications can be built relating multiple visual insights analyses. A visual insights analysis may also support ad-hoc drilling workflows that access the data warehouse.” Click MicroStrategy vs Tableau to see his full review.

A Microstrategy user writes: “MicroStrategy can read data from a wide variety of different DBMS and web services, producing optimized SQL code for each of them. It’s a one stop solution for BI: after 10 years using it I still haven’t found a report or graph that can’t be done with the suite. We use it for any kind of reporting and analysis. It helped manage the institution, reduce costs and provide better service to the patients (which are our customers…) The web is full of very interesting data, and the number of web services providing datasets is increasing. I would like to see Support for OAuth 1.0 and 2.0 to be able to attach external data sources. I’d like to have Support for JSON data. I hope HTML5 and JavaScript will be used extensively in next versions, to substitute the Flash based components. Read the full review here.

A Tableau user writes “I will address Tableau’s enterprise web-based and mobile usage at a later date but for departmental desktop usage, there are few hurdles to using Tableau. If you have “spreadsheet jockeys” trying to perform data visualization with just Excel, then Tableau is a perfect holiday gift.” Read the full review here.

Ok, let’s be realistic, it doesn’t have to be exactly like a real boxing match with a knockout blow that indicates one wins over the other. What makes more sense is what’s right for you in your environment. Let go of the analyst spin, the marketing spin—the spin for vendor success in general might not be what you need.

You might want to read the review of a real user who contributed a review on the “Yelp for Enterprise Tech” as referred to by the Wall Street Journal on IT Central Station. You can also check out these other vendor comparisons: QlikView vs Microsoft BI and Microsoft BI vs. SAP Business Objects. Enjoy!



Review Roundup: Mobile Device Management

This week’s review roundup is Mobile Device Management, MDM, solutions. With the proliferation of BYOD within corporate culture, these solutions are becoming increasingly important. MDM solutions can ensure a system that can provide security to your business. Here is what our community of real users are saying about the MDM solutions they are using:Trådtelefon-illustration

Zenprise – “Gave the company the option to implement BYOD for mobile phones. Also helped with companies who were providing phones the capabilities to easily deploy a phone as well as to securely delete the data if the phone went missing or policies were being broken. The Multi-Tenant component (MTC) was very finicky to get up and running and upgrades was hit and miss. If you were dealing with a single site it was fairly straightforward as long as you rebooted the system before doing any significant changes like upgrades or certificate changes. Read the full review here.

MobiControl – “SOTI MobiControl has greatly benefited the Information Services department of our organisation, as well as the users of the device. It also allows us to monitor the fleet and alert us to any situations that can potentially cause a security or privacy issue. It also has allowed our staff to stop using the devices as a simple phone call and email device and allow them to take on more and more of their work using this device by allowing us to distribute internally developed productivity apps and enabling them to access files, forms, policies and procedures through the Content Library. SOTI MobiControl can improve itself in its Reporting module, as while it has a lot of pre-built reports, making custom reports can be quite cumbersome and the addition of a Report Building wizard would be ideal.” Read the full review here.

MaaS360 – “It allows employees who require phones a way to receive support quickly rather than having to go through the Help Desk or other areas to receive assistance. If the device is stolen, it can be remotely wiped from the site, same goes for unlocks, changing policies, and re-enrollment of the device if it is accidentally wiped. Possibly a notification if a device is wiped and no longer has the security policy on the phone. The product can also install the certificates on the phone in a ‘smoother’ way. It currently sometimes fails and we have to re-enroll the device multiple times.” Read the full review here.

Read these reviews and others including IceWarp, Good for Enterprise, and more at IT Central Station!




Read, Write, and We View Vendors for TechTarget VMworld Awards

Elmer_FuddDid you get Elmer Fudd, tongue tied on that?

Well, if you did who cares? The point is that you can get to enterprise vendor reviews from real users here on IT Central Station—no disguises, no vendor speak, no vender hype, just real content from the field. Now, let’s see about these awards.

As the official media partner for the VMworld Awards for the seventh year in a row, TechTarget’s staff appointed a team of experts and editors that selected winning products from more than 175 entries. The team judged the products according to their innovation, value, performance, reliability and ease of use.

Let’s quickly take a look at the run down of some of the VMworld TechTarget winners:

Category: Storage and Backup for Virtualized Environments
Winner: SimpliVity, OmniCube
Runner-up: Dell Software, Dell AppAssure 5.3.3

Category: Security and Compliance for Virtualization
Winner: AFORE Solutions, CloudLink Secure VSA
Runner-up: Intigua, Intigua Virtual Containers

Category: Virtualization Management
Winner: Eaton, Eaton Intelligent Power Manager 1.3
Runner-up: CloudPhysics, CloudPhysics

Category: Networking and Virtualization
Winner: PLUMgrid, PLUMgrid Platform
Runner-up: Anuta Networks, nCloudX 1.7

Category: Desktop Virtualization and End-User Computing
Winner: Lakeside Software, SysTrack Resolve 6.1
Runner-up: Atlantis Computing, Atlantis ILIO Persistent VDI 4.0

Category: Private Cloud Computing Technologies
Winner: Nutanix, NX-6270
Runner-up: Metacloud, Carbon|OS

For the complete TechTarget article on the awards and show, click here.

For more information about any enterprise vendors, where are you going to start? It’s simple. Search for the vendors of your choice on IT Central Station.

Visit IT Central Station to browse hundreds of real user reviews of virtualization and cloud solutions including VMware, Citrix, Microsoft, Amazon, Red Hat, Oracle, and more.

Become a part of the “Yelp for Enterprise,” as referred to by the Wall Street Journal. Get your profile up and start reviewing, posting, and commenting. From the TechTarget awards, we have product pages for OmniCube and AppAssure that need your reviews . If you are a real user, write a review for these or others today!

The 3 CIO No-No’s When Saying “Yes!” to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing continues to be an important part of most enterprises. If you’re a CIO, being able to distinguish clear business objectives for cloud computing strategies—or any emerging technology for that matter—can lead to significant savings that help you lead in your market area.Cloud Computing

We liked David Linthicum’s take on this in his InfoWorld > Cloud Computing post:
3 CIO no-no’s when moving to the cloud.

Basically, he says, “If you want your cloud efforts to fail or struggle, ignore these three warnings:”

  1. Never work without a plan. This means somebody in the organization should be charged with driving a core migration strategy that includes business case validation and pilot projects.
  2. Never work with cloud haters. In many instances, people in IT organizations will declare their opposition to cloud computing, even before they understand the application of this technology. Those people are usually poison when it comes to making in progress with cloud, so they should not be put on the project.
  3. Never work with a self-funded model. Many CIOs are moving to the cloud with the idea that cloud computing savings will pay for the migration costs.
Not Going Haywire

A lot can go haywire with cloud computing if you’re not careful about adopting the right fit for your environment. For example, you could identify a clear technological advantage of a particular vendor or strategy and end up having no one on your team to champion the solution. They don’t want to change and don’t understand the benefits—adopting a whole new strategy makes them uncomfortable.

So what’s next? Getting involved in crowdsourced social media about the different vendor solutions available to you.

In fact, some savvy CIOs encourage their charges to spend time each day doing research on what their peers are saying about the different solutions available to get comfortable with the way things are going and what can help. They want them to be thought leaders in the tech space.

IT Central Station provides the “Yelp for IT Pros” according to the Wall Street Journal, and now the market leader for tech review sites for enterprises!

Top PaaS Reviews

With a unique partnership with LinkedIn, you can get started right away. Check out these recommended platform as a service (PaaS) reviews here:

Both vendors and real users benefit from having a site where everyone can chime in on what works well and in what environment without the hassle of extended sales calls, analysis and vendor spin—just your peers and their perspectives. Vendors can hear what their customers are saying objectively and make changes as needed. It’s all good.


Cloud Cost Gotchas—Forrester Blog

Cloud computing keeps gaining momentum as the way to go to lower costs for most enterprises. However, the hidden costs of cloud services can easily become gotchas depending on a number of factors. What’s the best way to avoid? Hidden Costs

We turned to Forrester’s James Staten as a start. His recent post on Forrester’s blog includes top-three gotchas for SaaS and PaaS deployments. We summarize them below but you can read the complete post here.

SaaS Hidden Costs

  • Customization—The more you can use the SaaS solution as it was designed the lower your costs. Customizations can quickly lead to development and maintenance costs you didn’t anticipate . . .
  • Integration—You will inevitably integrate SaaS services with in-house applications, data stores, and other SaaS services . . . Best practice is to define a clear integration architecture via as few means as possible.
  • Sprawl—A SaaS app you bought initially for just 15 employees, sounds like a great investment and low-cost solution until you open up the app to 1500 employees. Suddenly $99 per user could be more than an in-house solution . . .

PaaS Hidden Costs

  • Not turning things off—It’s easy to see how pay per use makes your startup costs low and elastic scaling as traffic rises easy. But it is just as easy to not pay attention to application use/load patterns when they go the other way. . .
  • Storage grows, it never shrinks—On a pay-per-use service you are constantly reminded of this, which means you need to actively manage your storage consumption by moving data to lower cost services when they are no longer in constant use. . .
  • Not activating cloud economics—Not every application is a fit with a pay-per-use platform. The best fit are those that take advantage of the pricing model through either elastic scale or transiency. . . Batch work, high performance computing, seasonal or cyclical applications are all good examples. An app that just sits there 24/7 consuming the same resources is usually a bad fit and should be moved either back into your data center or to traditional hosting.

When you look for your cloud computing strategy, consider doing a Search on a specific product or vendor on IT Central Station. For example, do a Search on the product, Azure—one of Microsoft’s cloud computing solutions. You can then have access to real user reviews of that product as well as others. Navigate to other products and vendors and get involved by writing a comment or consider adding a review yourself.

Click here to see a real user review for Azure. Also take a look a some of the other products available for cloud computing shown here:

                  Amazon.com_                  Google

Azure         Amazon Web Services     App Engine