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.



Choosing the Right Backup Solution

This week’s guest blogger is a member of IT Central Station’s Elite Squad – Chris Childerhose. Chris is a Technical Specialist for Storage, Virtualization & Backup. He’s published reviews of EMC Data Domain, Veeam, Nimble Storage, VMTurbo and other solutions. 

Every Virtualization and System Administrator deals with having the ability to recover servers, files, etc. and having a Backup Solutoin to help with recovery will ease the burden. But how do you know which one is right for you? How would you go about choosing the right solution that will help you in your daily tasks?

Software Criteria

When choosing a backup solution there are many things to consider based on your physical/virtual environment. What hypervisor are you running, what storage is being used, etc.? The best way to choose the right solution for the job is through evaluation and the more you evaluate the easier it will be to pick the right one for you. During an evaluation process you should consider things such as:

  • Compatibility with your chosen Hypervisor
  • Ease of installation and setup
  • Program ease of use and navigation
  • Backup scheduling
  • Reporting – is the reporting sufficient enough
  • Popular within the industry
  • Support for Physical and Virtual servers
  • And so on…and so on….

There are many criteria you can use in the evaluation stage and the above examples are but just a few. Composing a list prior to starting to look at software would be the recommended approach, this way you are looking at software that will fit most of your criteria prior to the evaluation/PoC stage.


When you have completed your criteria list and selected vendors for evaluation ensure to install all of them. Installing all of the products allows you to do a side-by-side comparison of the features you are looking for like job setup, ease of use, etc. Being able to see the products and how they work side-by-side gives you the best evaluation experience.

During the comparison stage look at something like ability to conduct SAN based backup versus LAN – how does each solution compare? Can the solution connect in to your SAN fabric allowing faster backups? If you cannot use SAN backups how will it affect the overall performance of the environment? After backups complete is there a reporting structure showing success/failure, length of time, amount of data, etc.? When working with the solution is navigation for job creation/modification simple? Is it cumbersome within the product and/or frustrating creating backups?

There are many things when comparing products to be aware of and answering questions as you go through the products is a great way to evaluate them.


Remember that there are many backup solutions out there for evaluation and choosing the right one can be a difficult decision. Evaluating the ones that appeal most to your organization is the best way to go and using a methodology for testing them is even better. In the end you will ensure your success by choosing the right solution for the job! Evaluate…..evaluate…..evaluate

What were the Most Popular Enterprise Flash Storage Solutions in 2015?

One of the fastest growing areas of technology is Enterprise Flash Storage. It was also one of the most popular categories on IT Central Station in 2015. Across the nearly two dozen solutions in this category, we have 154 real, unbiased user reviews.
The three most popular solutions in 2015 within this category were HPE 3PAR Flash Storage,, Tintri VMstore, and NetApp All-Flash FAS. So how do IT Central Station users rate these Enterprise Flash Storage solutions and what have they said about them?


HPE 3PAR Flash Storage, ranked in first place, currently has 61 real user reviews, including video reviews. Graham Forrest, a Server and Storage Practice Lead at a tech services company, says, “The reporting suite is a must and gives you all the information you need to manage storage.” He also advises, “We have had only two failed drives on the 7200, and each time the process was simple.” (Click here for the full review.)

Tintri VMstore, ranked in second place, has 21 real user reviews. Geoff Grice says that it “gave an immediate speed boost to our computer systems” and that it “transitioned our I.T. systems from being a ‘burden’ to being a trusted and dependable source of information.” (Click here for the full review.)

NetApp All-Flash FAS, ranked third, currently has 31 user reviews on IT Central Station. According to Red Johnston, a Senior System Engineer, We have a lot of applications that utilize it, and it has ties for e-commerce. Anytime there’s the slightest blip in availability, it’s noticeable across the entire enterprise. Upgrade and upware swaps are seemless.” (Click here for the full review.)


If you want to read more about these products, visit their product pages at IT Central Station — HPE 3PAR Flash Storage, Tintri VMstore, and NetApp All-Flash FAS.

To view reviews of other storage solutions visit https://www.itcentralstation.com/categories/enterprise-flash-array-storage.

Want to compete for $1 million-worth of storage hardware from HPE and Sandisk? Read more about it and submit an entry here http://go.itcentralstation.com/coolflashcontest.

HP ConvergedSystem 500 wins MVP award from CTR

Today we feature a guest blog post from Whitney Garcia, of HP. Check out what Whitney has to say about HP ConvergedSystem below.

The HP ConvergedSystem 500 for SAP HANA powered by Intel is the most cost effective big data solution from HP, designed for business who may be just getting their feet wet with SAP HANA. This solution brings flexibility, reliability and now even greater performance to your datacenter.

Announced May 2015 at SAP Sapphire NOW (and re-introduced at HP Discover Las Vegas), the HP ConvergedSystem 500’s latest update includes availability with the new Intel Xeon E7 v3 architecture. This update means you can experience up to a 39% increase in workload performance and the solution now delivers 12 new scale-up and scale-out configurations.

But it wasn’t the innovative new updates alone that caught the eyes and ears of Computer Technology Review (CTR) when they started selecting products for their 2015 Most Valuable Products awards. It was the flexibility and reliability that set HP ConvergedSystem 500 for SAP HANA apart.

HP ConvergedSystem 500 for SAP HANA’s ability to bring customers flexibility through a choice of operating systems, either SUSE Linux or Red Hat Linux OS, means that customers can use an operating systems that they may already be familiar with when beginning their SAP HANA journey, making it that much easier to get up and running. Additionally, the HP ConvergedSystem 500 also offers reliability through support for the latest-generation SAP business suite, SAP S/4HANA.

CTR also recognized HP ConvergedSystem 500 for SAP HANA’s comprehensive data backup and recovery solution – the hardware infrastructure, monitoring and management features that, “Deliver availability, continuity and reliability through HP Serviceguard for SAP HANA, the industry’s only automated, high availability disaster recovery solution.”

CTR’s MVP award helped validate what HP ConvergedSystem solutions for SAP HANA have set out do to since their inception: to bring lower TCO and higher value to customers through innovation, functionality and affordability.

More on the MVP awards
For the first time in CTR’s 35-year publishing history, their editorial judging panel awarded a select number of honorary MVP awards as a way of recognizing products that are truly in a class by themselves. HP ConvergedSystem 500 for SAP HANA won a Most Valuable Product award in the Data Storage category.

More information on HP ConvergedSystem solutions for SAP HANA’s latest updates can be found in this article, HP delivers more flexibility and choice in your infrastructure.

And check out the entire Most Valuable Product Award article from CTR, and the full list of 2015 products here.

To see reviews about HP ConvergedSystem on IT Central Station, check out reviews here.

HP 3PAR StoreServ All-Flash News

This week features a guest blog post by Calvin Zito, Storage Expert at HP. Thanks Calvin for your contribution!

To see real user reviews of HP 3PAR, check out IT Central Station.

I like telling stories with video, so here’s another video—this time of our latest ChalkTalk. Here you’ll learn about the new HP 3PAR StoreServ 20800 and 20850. Now how about if I summarize a few things for you here. The announcement includes 25% lower-cost flash capacity, a new class of massively scalable HP 3PAR and flash-optimized data services for ITaaS consolidation and hybrid IT projects.

  • With the ultra-dense and scalable HP 3PAR StoreServ 20000, we’ve dropped the price of all-flash to $1.50 per usable GB.  If we add in the savings from replicas, we drive down the $/GB to 25 cents!
  • As you saw in the ChalkTalk, the all-flash HP 3PAR StoreServ 20850 can deliver over 3.2 million IOPs at sub-millisecond latency and over 75GB/second. On top of that, it can scale to 15PB of useable capacity. Worth mentioning again (with details in the ChalkTalk) is the huge power, cooling and space savings compared to other vendors.
  • We’re introducing a new 3.84TB SSD drive. With our ASIC-enabled data compaction increasing usable capacity by 75%, it brings down the cost of all-flash storage to $1.50/GB usable. That really is flash for the masses!

I also want to summarize some other software enhancements that come with the 20000 System. I talked to a few of our bloggers in advance of the announcement and they were very excited to hear about these enhancements.

  • 3PAR Persistent Checksum. This ensures end-to-end data integrity from the application server through to the storage array for any workload and is completely transparent to the servers and applications. This is implemented in the new 3PAR Gen5 Thin Express ASIC. Here’s another feature you can add to the list that has no impact on array performance.
  • Asynchronous Streaming. This allows for remote replication where latency, distance and recovery are optimized.
  • Bi-directional Peer Motion. We’ve talked about Federation and Peer Motion in the past. Now we’re extending HP 3PAR Peer Motion to include non-disruptive, bi-directional data movement for up to four arrays. This is an entirely native capability without SAN virtualization appliance in the data path. With 3PAR storage federation, you can aggregate up to 60PB of useable capacity with over 10 million IOPs and 300 GB/second. And with a single click, workloads can move between federation members to dynamically rebalance storage resources for cost and performance optimization.
  • HP 3PAR Online Import. This now supports simple migration from HDS TagmaStore Network Storage Controller, US, and VSP systems. So we ae adding to the support we already had for EMC VMAX, VNX and Clariion CX4 as well as HP EVAs.

I’m completely pumped with the enhancements to HP 3PAR – and there’s more to come throughout 2015!

You can check it out for yourself! Read informative reviews, see side-by-side comparisons, and join the discussions taking place in one of our fastest growing categories.

Flash Storage Analysis: Beyond Shallow Metrics

This month’s Featured Reviewer is Chris Gurley. Chris has 14 years of professional IT experience and specializes in virtualization, cloud, and storage solutions. He writes prolifically, including on his blog and IT Central Station where he covers the life cycles of architecture and design, implementation, configuration, troubleshooting, and disaster recovery, as well as audit and policy documentation.

Chris has been an active member of IT Central Station, recently writing informative comparative reviews, particularly in our Flash Arrays category, including posts about HP 3PAR vs. EMC XtremIO, and Pure Storage vs. EMC XtremIO. Here are a few interesting excerpts from his quality reviews so you can see what makes Chris our Featured Reviewer:

“Leading up to EMC World 2015, IT Central Station asked how I would compare EMC XtremIO and HP 3PAR. Until recently, the flash storage conversation in my organization and many others has centered on XtremIO and Pure Storage, the leaders of the all-flash array (AFA) space. To that end, I’ve written a few posts already.  The hard part about these comparisons and competitive analyses is that we aren’t talking about products of the same species or specialization. I struggle to put it properly, but consider it this way. In pre-AFA days (the age of traditional spinners like NetApp FAS3040, EMC CLARiiON or VNX, and even last-gen 3PAR), the contest was like pitting a Toyota Camry against a Nissan Altima. They did most of the same things with minor strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Talking about XtremIO versus 3PAR 74xx is more of a discussion about construction-grade, heavy-duty cranes versus massive earth movers. They are in the same genus/genre, but are far from the same thing. Since they are different, we need to speak to some of the principles behind the questions and be willing to engage in a little philosophy rather than hanging up on shallow metrics.” Read the rest of his thoughtful analysis here.

The conclusion of this piece is also great and informative to our community of real users, “3PAR graduated long ago and has more recently picked up an advanced degree in flash. It has already checked the boxes of enterprise availability and expansion. Heck, it might seem downright old and lacking ingenuity. I think it’s just getting started, though. 3PAR’s deduplication is in its infancy, but its implementation has promise on other media. Then there’s compression. Already today HP can match or beat XtremIO in flash capacity with some to grow on (to make up for lacking data reduction). If it can meet the same needs today but then add a feature that would increase the value by even 25% in the near future, wouldn’t that be worth considering?” Read the full review here.

HP 3PAR StoreServ: What are Customers Saying?

This week features a guest blog post by Calvin Zito, Storage Expert at HP. Thanks Calvin for your contribution!

Recently TechTarget named the HP 3PAR StoreServ All-Flash Array (AFA) the product of the year in the category of all-flash.

This is such a satisfying recognition for HP 3PAR AFA because in the early days of HP announcing the 7450 AFA, several AFA start-ups claimed because our AFA wasn’t built from scratch, it didn’t qualify as all-flash storage. I even had one AFA competitor unfollow me on Twitter. He told me “your defense of HP is dutiful but you are displaying a lack of understanding.”

Well, I think HP and I have a very deep degree of understanding – not sure I can say the same for the competitor. This TechTarget recognition and many of the recent wins I’ve seen against the AFA start-ups are proof that the HP 3PAR AFA should be considered by any customer who is looking at all-flash storage.

What is it that is different about HP 3PAR that qualifies it to be considered as an all-flash array?  Here are just a few key things to consider:

  • The performance of the 3PAR AFA is an industry leader, including start-up AFAs beating many of the all-flash start-ups.
  • Deduplication with 3PAR is done via our Gen4 ASIC. That means dedup happens at virtually “line speed”.
  • With 3PAR architecture, we have a unique advantage with AFA. With 3PAR Adaptive Sparing we get an additional 20% capacity out of industry standard SSD – so a 1.6TB SSD used by other AFAs is a 1.9TB drive with HP 3PAR.
  • Because HP 3PAR is an established array (not built from scratch AFA), it has a robust set of data services that no start-up AFA can claim.

TechTarget is the media company behind SearchStorage.com – if you want to read the AFA Product of the Year award for yourself, you can find it here.

What are customers saying?

These kind of accolades are fantastic but nothing beats hearing directly from our customers. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Christian Teeft. Christian is the CTO of Latisys. Latisys is a US-based hybrid cloud services provider who has standardized on HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage, including the 3PAR all-flash array. Here’s my video with Christian.

You can see many more customer reviews on HP 3PAR StoreServ All-Flash by going to this IT Central Station page. If you want to learn more about HP 3PAR All-Flash, check out my blog at www.hp.com/storage/blog. And I’m happy to answer any questions you have – find me on Twitter as @HPStorageGuy.

Disclaimer: IT Central Station does not endorse or recommend any products or services. The views and opinions in this post do not reflect the opinions of IT Central Station.

Flash Storage Comparison: HP vs. NetApp vs. EMC XtremIO

This week at IT Central Station we present a flash storage comparison for the enterprise flash storage market. The Flash Array Storage category is one of the hottest categories at IT Central Station and our community of real users have a lot to say about what flash based storage array they are using. Here are some highlights for this week’s Review Roundup:

HP 3PAR – “Valuable Features: The CPG, Dynamic / Adaptive Optimization, the CLI, and more importantly the way it’s licensed as you are not “tagged” and held hostage when you’re at 1TB, and another, and another, and another.  The licensing is a brilliant approach to the fiscal tourniquet of scalability! Oh..I also like the service processor and how it’s out of band and monitors the SAN, how it does the updates – neat little component. HP 3PAR Improvements to My Organization: Scaling and performance. Easy to add shelves, easy to move data around while everything is hot, move data from tier to tier, expanding a LUN, there are so many ways it’s just amazing how much it’s helped!” Read the full HP 3PAR review here.640px-Light_shining1

EMC XtremIO – “The product, which has finally received updates enabling all common data services expected on a modern storage array (replication is still missing though), doesn’t shine for power consumption, used rack space or other kinds of efficiencies (at this time it’s also impossibile to mix different type of disks for example). But again, granting first class performance and predictability is always the result of a give-and-take. XtremIO is strongly focused on performance and on how it’s delivered. From this point of view it clearly targets traditional enterprise tier 1 applications and it can be considered a good competitor in that space. It clearly needs some improvements here and there…” Read the full EMC review here.

NetApp – “NetApp FAS supports All-Disk, Hybrid Flash and All-Flash data stores – that meet the needs of any kind of application workload. The VNX is a very good All-Disk and Hybrid Flash array and XtremIO is a very good All-Flash array, but you need two completely different products to provide the functionality. NetApp FAS eliminates silos and provides seamless scalability – to address Server Virtualisation, Virtual Desktop, Database and File storage needs in one scale-up and scale-out solution, that can start small and grow large.” Read the full review here.

You can also look at helpful comparisons of multiple enterprise flash storage vendors to help you with your research process such as HP vs. Pure, EMC vs. NetApp and others!

Is flash storage now mainstream?

This week IT Central Station is featuring a guest blog post by Calvin Zito, Storage Expert at HP. Thanks Calvin for your contribution!

I’ve been thinking about what was the most significant storage trend in 2014. In the past, I’ve been caught up in “hype” – those topics that get more attention than they probably deserve or have vendors all creating their own definition and creating confusion along the way. So I’ve become sensitive to sniffing out hype.

Four or five years ago, solid-state disk (SSD) – or flash – was one of the much-hyped topics. I remember one storage vendor saying that all hard drive disks (HDDs) would be replaced with SSDs by 2013. Well, obviously 2013 came and went, and while SSD was gaining momentum, it wasn’t mainstream. Mark Peters, analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group said, “Solid-state storage is an important emerging change, not just an addition or tweak, in the world of storage.”

Is flash now mainstream?

In a word, yes. So what’s changed now that flash has gone mainstream? Consider several factors:

  • Cost of SSDs has dropped dramatically – by more than 100% since the beginning of 2014
  • Deduplication – an emerging technology used to remove duplicate data that can increase the useable capacity of SSD by 4 to 20 or even 30 times
  • Combining those two factors, the cost per gigabyte (GB) of flash has dropped to the cost of 15k RPM HDDs – at least it has for HP 3PAR StoreServ

More flash for your cash

Adaptive Sparing.pngOne of the unique HP 3PAR innovations that has allowed us to drive down the cost of flash even further is something called Adaptive Sparing. 3PAR has a data striping mechanism called wide striping. This spreads data across all of the drives in 3PAR. As a result of wide striping, we have worked with SSD vendors to have more SSD drive capacity available to use. It releases the spare capacity present in each SSD media to the SSD itself, allowing SSDs to use that spare capacity as additional capacity. For example, what other vendors sell as a 1.6 terabyte (TB) drive is a 1.9 TB drive with HP 3PAR.

I have a short video that tells the flash storage going mainstream story from a customer’s perspective. Lee Pedlow is the Sr. Director of Production Services at Sony Network Entertainment International. He joins the head of HP Storage David Scott to discuss the benefits they see with flash storage. Lee talks about:

  • Doing a “bake-off” with EMC, Pure Storage and HP 3PAR
  • Choosing HP 3PAR All-Flash because they saw a 5-to-10 fold performance improvement
  • Consolidating from 7 racks of EMC VMAX to a single rack of HP 3PAR StoreServ 7450 All-Flash Storage – and the rack they’re using is only 25% occupied
  • Transfering and integrating data with their existing Oracle applications was transparent

Read more about HP 3PAR Flash Arrays or download a free buyer’s guide for more information!