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.



What’s All the Fuss About Hyper-Converged Infrastructure?

Guest post By Anita Kibunguchy – Product Marketing Manager, Storage & Availability, VMware

Technology has made it so easy that customers looking to purchase a product or service need to simply look online for reviews. Did you know that 80% of people try new things because of recommendations from friends? It’s the reason why e-commerce companies like Amazon have thrived! Customers want to hear what other customers have to say about: The product, their experience with the brand, durability, support, purchase decisions, recommendations … the list goes on. This is no different in the B2B space. That is why IT Central Station is such an invaluable resource for customers looking to adopt new technologies like hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) with VMware Virtual SAN. Customers get a chance to read unbiased product reviews from the tech community which makes them smart and much more informed buyers.

What is HCI?

Speaking of datacenter technologies, am sure you’ve heard about hyper-converged infrastructure as the next big thing. It is not surprising that according to IDC, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is the fastest growing segment of the converged (commodity-based hardware) infrastructure market which is poised to reach $4.8B in 2019.

Hyper-Converged Systems

The top-level definition of HCI is actually quite simple.  HCI is fundamentally about the convergence of compute, networking and storage onto shared industry-standard x86 building blocks.  It’s about moving the intelligence out of dedicated physical appliances and instead running all the datacenter functions as software on the hypervisor.  It’s about eliminating the physical hardware silos to adopt a simpler infrastructure based on scale-out x86.

Perhaps more fundamentally, it’s also about enabling private datacenters to adopt an architecture similar to the one used by large web-scale companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon. HCI is by no means confined to low-end use cases like ROBO and SMB (although it does great there too). The real promise of HCI is to provide the best building block to implement a full-blown Software Defined Data Center.

When thinking about HCI, hardware and software are fundamental to this new infrastructure.

  • Hardware: HCI includes industry-standard x86 systems that can be scaled up or out. Almost like small lego bricks stacked together to build a much more imposing infrastructure. By design, it’s simple, elegant, scalable infrastructure
  • Software: I consider this the secret sauce. All the key datacenter functions – compute, networking, and storage – run as software on the hypervisor. They work seamlessly together in a tightly integrated software layer. The software can be scaled out across many x86 nodes. We believe that VMware offers the most flexible and compelling option for customers to adopt the HCI model: a Hyper-Converged Software(HCS) stack based on vSphere, Virtual SAN and vCenter. Customers can deploy the software on a wide range of pre-certified vendor hardware. They get the benefits of HCI, including strong software–hardware integration and a single point of support, while having unparalleled options of hardware to choose from.

Benefits of HCI

This new IT architecture has many benefits for the end customer including:

  • Adaptable software architecture that takes advantage of commodity technology trends, such as: increasing CPU densities; new generations of solid-state storage and non-volatile memories; evolving interconnects (40GB, 100GB Ethernet) and protocols (NVMe)
  • Uniform operational model that allows customers to manage their entire IT infrastructure with a single set of tools.
  • Last but not least, streamlined procurement, deployment and support. Customers can build their infrastructure in a gradual and scalable way as demands evolve

My advice to companies who are not sure about HCI and what it does is – do your homework! It’s important to understand what the technology is and learn how this new paradigm of IT will change your business. There’s no denying that customers have observed lower TCO, flexibility, scalability, simplicity and higher performance with hyper-converged systems.

Looking to learn more about VMware Virtual SAN? The Virtual SAN Hands-on-Labs gives you an opportunity to experiment with many of the key features of Virtual SAN. You can also read more customer stories here and visit Virtual Blocks to learn more about Virtual SAN and VMware’s HCI strategy.

Top Server Virtualization Software – 2015 Edition

Server Virtualization Software is essential to the your business infrastructure. These tools include the interfaces and software that system adminstrators can use to set up and manage virtual servers, operating systems, networks, and storage resources. Not only must the right software have broad business applications certified stack (ERP, MRP, HR, CRM, Sales), but must also have a clear roadmap that meets IT Strategy (DRP, Backup, SDN). Most importantly, good virtualization software must have good scalability and flexibility of use.

Here at IT Central Station, we offer a crowdsourced platform that allows real users to share their opinions about tech products with the rest of the enterprise tech community. We have compiled over 85,000 views of the top Server Virtualizaton Software tools by real users in 2014 and analyzed their trends in the infographic below. All of our data is based on actual behavior of real users researching and comparing vendors on IT Central Station.

Top Server Virtualization Software Vendors   IT Central Station

If you have any questions regarding our research or would like to read our reviews, please visit our Server Virtualization Software section on IT Central Station at http://www.itcentralstation.com/category/server-virtualization-software.

Download our infographic in PDF format.

Virtualization Review Roundup: VMware vs. Citrix vs. Hyper-V – Big League Competition

This week’s review roundup features one of the most popular discussions in the IT community – the best server virtualization software on the market. The competition in this category is big-league. As one of our reviewers recently wrote: “A quick Google search for comparisons will return at least several hundred thousand hits. There seems to be a large number of posts and articles trying to make a case that one is better than the other.”


Indeed, many of our community members passionately discuss the pros and cons of the virtualization solutions they are using. Read what our real users have to say about three of these solutions:

VMware – “I have tried other hypervisor technologies including XenServer, Hyper V, KVM, Parallels and virtual box. They all do the same thing, but ESXi has been doing it better for longer…[Valuable features] You can get it downloaded and installed for free. It allows you to do more with less. It’s easy to use and simple to configure. There are hardware vendor specific builds of the software, increasing visibility and manageability of the product.” Read more here.

Citrix – “Pros: Xen is an open source virtualization server widely used in IT. It provides simple and robust commands to manage Xen environment for managing virtual hosts.Backup and recovery of virtual hosts are simple. It can be managed remotely with XenCenter. It supports all client OS like windows, linux etc. Cons:  It requires system with large number of CPUs and large number of memory to support guest operating systems. Not able to export virtual hosts in other virtualization software.” Read more here.

Hyper-V – “I’ve used Hyper-V 2012 for 6 months for deployment of new VM’s. The speed of the VM’s has improved the way we function, although the storage features could use some improvement. Overall, I gave Hyper-V 4 stars although we did encounter issues wit “h deployment and there were times when it was not stable which caused the VM to reboot without notice. Before implementing Hyper-V, we also evaluated options from VMware. If you don’t have a need for complex apps then Hyper-V is the correct solution to choose.” Read more here.

Visit IT Central Station to browse hundreds of real user reviews of virtualization solutions including VMwareCitrix, OracleMicrosoft, and more.


VMware vs Hyper-V – Which Do You Prefer?

VMware vs Hyper-V: we asked our fellow enterprise professionals what they thought about these two server virtualization competitors, and this is what they had to say:

VMware vs Hyper V

VMware vs Hyper-V

Pro VMware:

You have the apparent fans of either side. Users like Tim Linerud praise VMware highly, saying it is a “more mature product and an industry standard.Another user, Tim Goedde, likes VMware for its streamlined processing, containing few gaps in the overall network. Yet another member likes VMware because it has “more interoperability with storage products like EMC.”

Pro Hyper-V:

If you’d ask someone like Charbel Nemnom, though, you’d get a different answer. Based on cost and scalability, Nemnom prefers Hype-V over the alternatives. It can also host more logical processors to date and has a greater physical memory capacity. Other reviewers mentioned that Hyper-V was more intuitive and easier to understand.

They’re Both Good!

Then there are the people in the middle who say that both products are good, though some agree that each one has its strong points for specific situations. Nabil Zahid, for example, recommends VMware for clients who need more automation to their processes, while Windows-driven customers would do better with the Hyper-V.


Interestingly enough, you’ll also find a voice for avoiding both these options, as is the case with Varadarajan Narayanan who suggests trying a simplified Xen model or KVM. Even members who are pro one or the other of the above brands like Andy Brauer (who declares VMware king, but says that “the princes are now just as good and the price makes a very compelling case for the opensource world”), also recommends one of the more contemporary options.

From the flow of this conversation, it definitely appears that Windows users would be better off using Hyper-V, and Linux OS users or people who are already equipped with ESX will have an easier and better time with VMware.

Have an opinion that differs or want to argue out a point? Leave a comment, and join the conversation!

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!

CIO’s Agenda—Hunt and Harvest in a Digital World!

Gartner’s CIO Digital Agenda requires hunting and harvesting on top of tending to current end-user demands. CIOs need to get more from existing IT infrastructure systems and processes while looking for new solutions, according to Gartner’s Group Vice President and Fellow in Executive Programs, Mark McDonald.

With over 2,000 CIOs surveyed, Mark announced results like these from a Gartner Executive Programs CIO survey and CIO agenda report on CNBC:CIO Agenda Gartner 2013

  • Hunting—occurs in situations where IT needs to be out in front—scouting and finding innovations and opportunities beyond enterprise boundaries. . .
  • Harvesting—occurs in situations where IT needs to raise business performance by actively changing business processes, extending products and services, and replicating best practices. . .  read more here.

Don’t be fooled by a duck in rabbit’s clothing or vice versa!

Problem—How can you hunt or harvest without knowing where or what to hunt and harvest? You need a place to go to find out what products and vendors support the innovation that you seek and how they do it affectively.

Follow Products and Vendors on IT Central Station

Follow the Products you currently have and the Vendors you typically use on IT Central Station. You can then explore other solutions in the same categories. Reach out and find out what others are doing by commenting and asking questions.

IT Central Station provides the framework to get real views from users of your current and potential IT needs. You can also write a review of your own, anonymously or as an Expert Reviewer.

For example, Server Virtualization for most IT Enterprises has rapidly evolved with new vendors entering the space and more promises on the horizon. Harvesting more for less must be achieved to be competitive. Here’s where to get started:

Server VirtualizationHyper-V

Oracle VM

Citrix XenServer


Patrick T Campbell

Get to Class!—Server Virtualization Refresher Tips for CIOs and IT Decision Makers

CIOs and IT Decision Makers need savvy IT infrastructure planning to be cost-effective and satisfy increasing expectations for end-user experience. Guess what—or who doesn’t know this—you betta get yer Server Virtualization on!Server Virtualization Refresher

Go ahead, scratch your head. The legacy infrastructure dear to many IT folks has become more expensive than a properly managed set of virtualized platforms—as predicted by most IT enterprise analysts—and now sitting even stronger in the forefront of large and mid-sized enterprises as the way to go.

What are you waiting for? [We know you’re not waiting]

Here’s a five-point run down that we liked from the IT Solutions Blog at ConRes.

Five Refresher Tips for Server Virtualization

  1. How will your software be licensed in a virtual environment?  When you virtualize your systems, will you need new software licenses?  The answer will vary by software.  Find out in advance where you’ll need new licenses.
  2. What is the best virtualization platform for your business?  Each business has different requirements.  And with the amount of virtualization options on the market, the choices can be dizzying.  Work with a trusted IT advisor to determine the most cost-effective virtualization platform that will get the job done.
  3. Does your virtualization plan mitigate failure risk? Virtualization should reduce system risks.  But a poorly implemented virtualization plan can do just the opposite.  Server virtualization means that one physical machine can act as multiple virtual servers.  But what happens when that single machine goes down?The critical point is often the host server.  Contingency plans need to be in place should the host server fail, and the virtualized platform should be designed so that all your critical elements aren’t on the same host server.  In short, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  4. Are you overloading your host servers? Each host server can only realistically accommodate a certain number of guest machines.  While that number used to extend to 20 to 50 or even 100 virtual machines on a host, software and applications have become larger and more complex.  Now, industry experts say that 15 virtual servers per host is the likely maximum number, with most enterprises achieving a 6:1 ratio for data applications such as CRM, ERP, databases and e-mail.  It’s important to be realistic about host server capacity so you don’t overwhelm your systems.
  5. Which servers and applications can be virtualized?  Not every server or application can or should be virtualized.  For example, servers that require special hardware or run resource-intensive applications aren’t good candidates for virtualization.  And some common applications just won’t run in a virtual environment.  With a little forethought, you can figure out which applications and servers can work in a virtual environment. Good candidates for virtualization?  Older servers (to avoid upgrade costs or increases in  maintenance costs), multiprocessor servers dedicated to single-processor applications (enabling you to optimize resources), and infrequently used severs (so you can consolidate resources).

Start following top Server Virtualization Software on IT Central Station and any other Products and Vendors you want.

Here’s products you can follow now:

Server VirtualizationHyper-V

Oracle VM

Citrix XenServer


Lead in the Virtualization Strategies for your organization by following Products and Vendors at IT Central Station!



Are You Surprised by Who’s Kicking Butt on Social Media?

B2B Customers

B2B Customer Kicking Butt

[If you clicked here, probably not]
One of the hottest social media trends is now for B2B customers. Barry Levin at the CMSWwire has a nice run down of this recent news from Forrester: Forrester Report: The Social Media Habits of B2B Customers.

We fetched this key take-away from Barry’s post:

All business customers can be reached by social channels, and 98% of business decision-makers also read blogs, watch videos or listen to podcasts. “It’s no longer a question of whether you should use social, but how,” the report said. Just as B2B marketers target their customers for different stages of their customer lifecycle, so they now must factor in how social media is used in those stages.

He also points out that five years ago, discussing social media as a strategy for B2B made people side-eyed with skepticism.

Do you remember when someone on the marketing team said, “We just need a better white paper!”  Well, you need that too but most enterprise vendors are now asking the question in real executive-level meetings, “How are we doing on social media?” B2B customers are just using it—like crazy. Look at this graphic from the Forrester Survey:

Forrester_ReportForrester Logo

Guess who get’s mentioned in the post?  IT Central Station alongside Cisco and SAP communities!

Forrester notes that the most popular social communities tend to be niche ones focused on specific objectives, such as IT Central Station, Cisco Communities or SAP Community Network  and similar vendor-support forums or brand-related communities.

The Yelp-ification of the Enterprise

In this article by Influitive, 11 Business Technology Review Sites Where Your Advocates Can Praise You, our Station Master says:

“We’re 100% focused on the enterprise to meet the unique needs of enterprise buyers,” says Russell Rothstein, CEO of IT Central Station. ”Our visitors can be assured that the products they find in IT Central Station are ‘enterprise-class’ and high quality.”

The Wall Street Journal calls IT Central Station the “Yelp for CIOs.” Whether you’re a vendor finding out what folks are saying about your products or you’re a real user—peers helping peers in online social media is where you can kick butt finding the exact details you might need to make a crucial decision for your organization.

Take a peek here to do this now:

                       Cisco                   Ibm                  Vmware_logo               

Quality Center   Enterprise Routers   QualityStage   VMware ESXi    Oracle Data Mining

After you read one, write one, and then comment on two—reviews that is!