It is incredible that it already more than a year since my last post here at VDIcloud, and it’s even worse that I promised more content but never delivered. So let’s give it another try, and where better to start than with the Tech Field Days I’ve been to in the past. Let’s start with the last I’ve been to (also almost a year ago) at the NetApp Insight event in Las Vegas in 2018. As the next event will be this month, I thought it would be a good idea to see what they showcased last year, and then after the event this year compare and see what NetApp brings to the table.
How to give HCI power to the customer
We live in a world where data is worth more than oil, and companies are constantly looking for better and faster ways to utilize their data to the fullest. A lot of times we here about cloud, and instantly we think about Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and the Google Cloud Platform, but a lot of companies are still working on their own on-premises infrastructures albeit that more and more companies are trying to replicate the public cloud providers by utilizing Converged and Hyper Converged solutions. Bridging the gap between On-premises solutions and Public Cloud Providers is something that a lot companies are struggling with and for this they are looking at the HCI providers for help. NetApp is relatively late with their HCI solution, but that doesn’t mean that they’re providing the right solution for their customers.
NetApp’s view on HCI
During this presentation Gabriel goes deeper into what the focus is for NetApp HCI and provides answers on some of the important questions NetApp’s view on HCI. The presentation was focussed on what defines HCI, what types of HCI exist, and what are the benefits for customer. As always with the Field Day events there are some awesome delegates that have great questions an remarks on what the presenter is telling, and this presentation has some great remarks on HCI, CI and what the difference really is. I really loved the conversation on what the difference is between CI and HCI and what that means for the customer, but I do agree with Gabe that the biggest difference between CI and HCI is that CI comes by the rack and the stack is controlled by the vendor, where as with HCI you can start small and grow big. Both have their advantages, but if convergence started with the hyperscalers, HCI is much more in line than CI. NetApp offers a solutions that exists of Compute nodes and Storage Nodes that can be scaled independently of each other. This provides customers the ability to really disaggregate compute and storage, while still having the power of a single scalable and easy to maintain platform.
I’ve always looked at the HCI solution as a great step towards building on-premises cloud solutions (private cloud if that is a better name for you to use). The problem I’ve always seen with these solution is that the focus often seemed to be on the bringing the vendors solution to the customer and in doing so it is not always bringing the best solution to them. Hyper Converged Infrastructure for me is much more about bridging the private and public Cloud and for me the solutions that NetApp provide to its customers seems to meet these standards. So calling in Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure instead of Hyper Converged is a great one. Sure there is work that needs to be done by NetApp, but who knows what they will announce in a couple of weeks. Just watch the video and read the blogs below to have the best insights on the NetApp HCI solution. And don’t forget to visit the Tech Field Day Xtra site for this event here: https://techfieldday.com/event/netappinsight18/
I just wanted to shout out to my fellow TFDx delegates at this event that wrote some great insights to this preasentation:
Tuesday 18 april 2017, Patrick van Helden, Director of Solution Architecture at Elastifile was at Metis IT to tell about Elastifile. We had the chance to try a real-life deployment of the Elastifile software.
Elastifile is a relative new name in the storage area. Since this month, the company is out of stealth and has presented its Elastifile Cloud File System. The company is founded in 2013 in Israel by three founders with a strong background in the virtualization and storage industry. In three funding rounds the product raised $58 Million. In the last round $15M came directly from Cisco. Other investors in Elastifile are leading flash Storage vendors and Enterprise Cloud Vendors.
What is Elastifile?
The goal of the founders is to have a storage platform that is able to run any application, on any environment, at any location. Whereby any location means really any location: Cloud or on premise. The product is developed to run with the same characteristics in these environments. Therefor Elastifile wrote from scratch a POSIX compliant filesystem that supports file, block and object oriented workloads and is optimized for flash devices. You can store your documents, user shares, VMware VMDK files, but also use it for big data applications, all stored on the same Elastifile Cloud File System.
But what is the difference with a NetApp storage for example? A NetApp system can also provide you the same capabilities and is already doing this for years. The first thing in which Elastifile’s approach is different than NetApp, is the way the product is written. It’s written for high performance and low latency. Elastifile only supports flash devices and the software knows how to handle the different types of flash devices to get the best performance and extend the lifetime of flash devices. Furthermore, ElastiFile is linearly scalable and can be combined with compute (Hyperconverged Solutions).
Another difference is that the Elastifile Cloud File System can run inside a (public) cloud environment and connect this to your own on premise environment. The problem with (public) cloud environment is that it gives you not the same predictable performance as in your on-premise environment. The Elastifile Cloud File System have a dynamic data path to handle noisy and fluctuating environments like the cloud. Due to this dynamic path Elastifile can run with high-performance and most important with low latency in cloud-like environments.
Elastifile’s Cloud File System can be deployed in three different deployment models:
Dedicated Storage mode
The first deployment model is HCI, where the Elastifile software runs on top of a hypervisor. Now, Elastifile supports only VMware, additional hypervisors will be added in future releases. You can compare this deployment with many other HCI vendors, but when connecting and combining the HCI deployment model with one of the other deployment options it gives you more flexibility and capabilities. Most other HCI vendors only support a small set of certified hardware configurations, wherein Elastifile supports a broad range of hardware configurations.
The second and in my opinion the most interesting deployment model is the dedicated storage mode deployment. In this model, the Elastifile software is directly installed on servers with flash devices. Together they create the Elastifile distributed storage. With this deployment model, it is possible to connect hypervisors directly to these storage nodes using NFS (and in the future SMB3), but also connect bare-metal servers with Linux, Oracle or even container based workloads to this same storage pool.
As we already discussed earlier the latest deployment is the In-Cloud deployment. Elastifile can run In-Cloud in one of the big public cloud providers but is not limited to public clouds. Elastifile can also run in other clouds as long it delivers flash based storage as infrastructure. The Elastifile can use the storage to build its distributed low-latency cloud file system.
When combining these three models you get a Cloud ready file system with high performance, low latency and a lot of flexibility and possible use-cases.
HCI file services
A great use-case for the Elastifile Cloud File System is that you can decouple the operating system and application from the actual data of the application in a HCI deployment. You can use the Elastifile Cloud File System to mount a VM directly to the storage and bypass the hypervisor. And because the Elastifile Cloud File System is a POSIX filesystem it can store millions of files with deep file structures.
Linear scalable in cloud-like environments
A second use-case for the Elastifile Cloud File system is that the performance with any deployment of Elastifile delivers a predictable low-latency performance. When expanding the Elastifile nodes each node will add the same performance as any other node. When adding additional storage, you’re also adding additional storage controllers to the cluster. This result in a linear scalable solution even in cloud-like environments.
The last use-case of the Elastifile is that it could automatically move files on the filesystem to another tier of flash storage. This could be a cheaper type of flash or a less performing type of flash storage, for example consumer grade SSD’s. Movement will be based on policies. The Elastifile software can further offload cold data to a cheaper type of storage, like a S3 storage. This can be a cloud based S3 storage, but can also be an on premise S3 storage.
How the future will look like is always difficult to say, but from all what I already tried is this a very promising first version of the Elastifile Cross-Cloud Data Fabric. In the session with Patrick, I deployed the software myself and Patrick showed us the performance on these deployed nodes without any problems. The idea’s around the product are great and on the roadmap, you find the most important capabilities which are needed to make it a real mature storage product.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar in which a Nutanix competitor stated that the Nutanix Licensing was a really hard nut to crack. I immediatly went to the Nutanix licensing site to see what was so difficult about it but couldn’t explain why someone would find it so hard to figure out the Nutanix Licensing.
The Acropolis editions
So let’s see how the Nutanix Licensing is done, and start with Acropolis:
Nutanix Acropolis is a powerful scale-out data fabric for storage, compute and virtualization. Acropolis combines feature-rich software-defined storage with built-in virtualization in a turnkey hyperconverged infrastructure solution that can run any application at any scale.
Well get back on the Acropolis licensing details shortly 😀
And on the other hand Nutanix Prism:
Nutanix Prism gives administrators a simple and elegant way to manage virtual environments. Powered by advanced data analytics and heuristics, Prism simplifies and streamlines common workflows within a datacenter eliminating the need to have disparate management solutions.
So after we know the different versions of Acropolis and Prism let’s dive into the differences between the Acropolis Starter, Pro and Ultimate editions:
The first difference between the three can be Storage side of things and is clearly stated on the Nutanix Website:
So if you need more then 12 hosts in a cluster or Deduplication, Compression or Erasure coding you’ll need at least Pro, if you need some of your workloads to be pinned on flash you’ll have to switch over to Ultimate. Easy as that on the storage side, let’s continue.
The next one in the Nutanix list is Infrastructure Resilience:
In this case it is even easier, if you need enclosure or rack awereness Starter is a NoNo. You’ll need to decide on other features (like storage) if you need to go to Pro or Ultimate.
Next please 😀 That will be Data Protection:
So you need Cloud Connect or Time Stream? Move to Pro, if you want Multi Site DR, Metro Availability or Sync Replicatie and DR you’ll need to go to Ultimate, if you don’t need all of these services, you’ll do just fine with starter…
No hard nuts for me until now, but we’re not there so let’s continue:
The one thing everybody seems to be talking about these days is security, and that’s also the next on the Nutanix list:
Just need Client Authentication? Go for Starter. Also need Cluster Lockdown?:
Cluster Shield, which allows administrators to restrict access to a Nutanix cluster in security-conscious environments, such as government facilities and healthcare provider systems. Cluster Shield disables interactive shell logins automatically.
Go to Pro and if you also need Data-at-Rest encryption please continue to Ultimate 😉
The next “hard nut” to crack, would be Management & Analytics. But for me it’s another easy comparison between what is in the licensing offer:
What is important for our Prism comparison is that every Acropolis edition already offers the Prism Starter edition. We don’t really need to look at that one than, so we’ll concentrate on Pro if we get there 😀 For Management and Analytics it is kind of easy again, because if you need Rest API’s you’ll need Pro or Ultimate, otherwise you could do with Starter. But again, it depends on the other features in these licensing deals if you can choose the Starter/Pro or Ultimate.
The last one would be Virtualization, but there is difference between the three on this:
That’s all for the Acropolis site of things, and to be honest I didn’t find any hard nuts to crack. The list is very clear, and based on the business and technical requirements it should be able to choose the flavor you need.
The Prism editions
So it must be in the Prism site of things than. Let’s see how difficult this Prism thingy really is.
For the people that payed attention, I already told that all Acropolis editions included the Prism Starter edition so we can concentrate on Pro.
Just to make clear on what is in both of them:
It’s not that hard to make your choice if you ask me, but let’s explain what Prism Pro offers more than the already included Starter:
Prism search is an integrated google-like search experience that will help you query and perform actions with a single click
Customizable Operations Dashboard is a Visually rich dashboards that give actionable summary of applications, virtual machines and infrastructure state at-a-glance.
Capacity Behavior Analytics is a Predictive analysis of capacity usage and trends based on workload behavior enabling pay-as-you-grow scaling
Capacity Optimization Advisor is an Infrastructure optimization recommendations to improve efficiency and performance
So if you need one of these features you’ll need to buy the Prism Pro license.
It is one thing to bash your competitors and I know they all do this, including Nutanix themselves, but if you want to say something about your competitors, please make sure to know what you’re talking about. In this case (and in my “humble” opinion) the statement about the Nutanix Licensing being a hard nut to crack is really based on nothing.
The Nutanix licensing is very clear in what the licensing does and does not include and it’s up to you to create clear requirements about the environment on which you can than base you choice for the Acropolis and Prism edition you’ll need.