Cisco HyperFlex: A new HCI solution

This is a cross post from my Metis IT blogpost, which you can find here.

After teasing the market with a photo containing three servers, the word Hyper and some blank puzzle pieces, Cisco announced their own Hyper-converged Solution: Cisco HyperFlex. This solution is an extension of Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). Until now the UCS platform portfolio did not contain a native Cisco storage solution. Finally Cisco entered the highly competitive Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) market with HyperFlex.

The Cisco HyperFlex solution combines compute, storage and the network in one appliance. Cisco says the solution is unique in three ways: flexible scaling, continuous data optimization and an integrated network. All other HCI vendors do Hyper-converged with compute, storage and networking, but none of these have a complete integrated network solution. As expected of a former networking only company, Cisco also integrated the network.

The platform is built on existing UCS components and a new storage component. The servers used in the solution are based on the existing Cisco UCS product line. Networking is based on the Cisco UCS Fabric interconnects. The new storage component in Cisco’s platform is called the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform, which is based on Springpath technology.

Springpath HALO and Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform

Springpath was founded in 2012 and Cisco co-invested the start-up. Springpath has developed its own data platform using HALO (Hardware Agnostic Log-structured Object) architecture. The HALO architecture offers a flexible platform with data distribution, caching, persistence and optimization. Cisco has re-branded this to the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform.

All data on the Cisco HX Data platform is distributed over the cluster. Data optimization takes place by using inline de-duplication and compression. Cisco indicates most customers should reach 20-30% capacity reduction with de-duplication and another 30-50% with compression without any performance impact.

Picture 1

VMware and Cisco HyperFlex

First the HyperFlex solution will only be available with the VMware hypervisor using NFS as storage protocol. A Data Platform Controller for communication with the physical hardware will be used for the HyperFlex platform. This Data Platform Controller requires a dedicated number of processor cores and dedicated amount of memory. The controller integrates the HX Data Platform with the use of two preinstalled VMware ESXi vSphere Installation Bundles (VIBs): IO Visor and VAAI. IO Visor provides a NFS mount point and VAAI offloads file system operations.

Picture 2

Management

The HyperFlex storage is managed with a vCenter plug-in. There are currently no details available about the layout and functionality of this plug-in. We expect the plugin will be the same as Springpath with Cisco branding.

The physical server and network is managed like any other Cisco UCS server. Each server will be connected to the Fabric Interconnect and managed from the UCS manager interface.

Cisco HyperFlex range

The HyperFlex platform is available in three different models, an 1U and 2U rack based server and a combination of rack servers with blade servers. The first model is for a small footprint, the 2U model is for maximal capacity and the last option is for maximal capacity and high compute.

All configurations must be ordered with a minimum of four servers. As far as we know at this stage the maximum number of servers in a HyperFlex cluster is eight. Each server will be delivered with VMware pre-installed.

The hardware configuration of the HyperFlex nodes is not fixed. You can choose your type of processor, amount of memory and the amount of disks. On the Cisco Build & Price website all available configuration options can be found. You can always scale your cluster by adding storage and/or compute nodes.

Picture 3

Licensing

Cisco has an interesting licensing model for the HyperFlex HX Data Platform. The HX Data Platform will be licensed on a per year basis. In the configuration tool by default a server is configured with a license for one year. This licensing model deviates from other HCI vendors who base their license model on raw or used TB’s, or use a perpetual license.

Conclusion

Cisco is a new and interesting player in the rapidly growing Hyper-converged market. The technology used provides some nice features, capabilities and an interesting licensing model. Time will tell if the product will be successful and what the roadmap will bring for the future. But at first sight it looks like a good alternative for the leading Hyper-converged solutions.

The day before #VeeamOn2015

DSC05940

So after a long day of travel on sunday (Amsterdam-Detroit and Detroit-Las Vegas) I arrived in Las Vegas late in the evening and fell into a deep sleep as soon as I hit the rather large bed in the Aria Resort and Casino, where the #VeeamOn2015 is held. I really like the venue in the way that it is an awesome resort where everything you need is in the same building(s) and if you need something it’s just a short 5 minute (or a little longer) walk. A esbig surprise was waiting for me when I entered the room and found a great gift (See picture). I actually had a discussion in the plane with the dutch guy (Ikea filmcrew) about this awesome headphones.. So a big thanks Veeam!

Monday at VeeamOn2015

So on monday after a good night sleep I went to the conference location to pick up my pass as well as a backpack and meet with a couple of guys. As I’m a foreigner with a big jetlag I decided to really take it easy this (Partner)day, and give myself the time to adjust.

I did went to the Grand opening of the Expo Lounge, to meet with peers and enjoy some great food and drinks. Always great to meet with people like Vladan Seget (blog: ESX Virtualization), Andrea Mauro (blog: vInfrastructure) and Joep Piscaer (blog: VirtualLifeStyle). Those three guys are all Veeam Vanguards and if you don’t know what that is, my suggestion is that you start reading more about this program here.

#VeeamON

#VeeamON2015

Evening in Vegas

In the evening I decided to make the best of my time here in Sincity and did a walk over the strip to see the fountains, take pictures of all the crazy stuff in this town, before heading to my room to do a Skype call with the homefront and get a (not so) good night sleep.

DSC05979

Day 1 of VeeamOn2015 is already started and I’ll be writing another blogpost on that asap Open-mouthed smile

Techunplugged is coming soon

techunplugged-logo

Next week I’ll fly to London to attent the Techunplugged event created by Enrico Signoretti. I do admire what Enrico is achieving and it is awesome to so see all the effort he’s putting into these events to serve the community. I would highly recommend you to join us next week in London if you’re in the neighbourhood or have the opportunity to join.

Looking at the agenda it is going to be a very enjoyable and leaningfull day in which you’ll be able to ask your questions, listen to the experts and talk with them face to face.

With a great line-up of sponsors who’ll tell their story. With companies like PernixData, Zerto, Cloudian, Load DynamiX and Zadara Storage you’ll know you’ll join the beer party J with a head full of knowledge. But wait hearing from these companies alone would be awesome, but there is much more.

Enrico made sure to invite a couple of great guys (Gurus) from the industry to do a couple of great presentations and roundtables. People like Enrico Signoretti, Chris M Evans, Stephen Foskett, Hans DeLeenheer, Nigel Poulton and Martin Glassborow should ring a bell if you work in the industry, and they will all have a great story to tell…

So if you haven’t already, make sure to join us next week in London and make sure to reserve your FREE seat!

More information and registration at techunplugged.io