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The Best of VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure and Virtual SAN

This year is the shaping up year for hyper-convergence and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI). Incepting faster CPUs, inexpensive flash (with updated technologies on the horizon) and software innovation with the several data centers standardizing over server virtualization. This is the time to extend and scale existing infrastructure investments with novice, modern software-defined solutions.

VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure and Virtual SAN

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A few months ago, VMware introduced Virtual SAN 6.2 and deliver hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) software stack by a name: VMware Hyper-Converged Software (VMware HCS). Virtual SAN 6.2 launched several sets of new functions and features to help improvise and management and space efficiency. VMware HCS is the name generally refers to the software stack of Virtual SAN, vSphere and vCenter Server.

With all terms and names given to depict HCI and the components, the terms used at VMware break down our view about HCI.

Is Virtual SAN = HCI?

Sometimes HCI, VMware HCS, and even Virtual SAN, is used in the similar fashion , referring to a solution where storage and compute functions are delivered from the hypervisor software on a common x86 platform (i.e. HCI). When all those terms are associated with HCI, they refer to particular components or groups of components which make up a full hyper-converged infrastructure solution.

It’s imperative to understand that Virtual SAN on its own is not hyper-converged infrastructure. Virtual SAN is software-defined storage which is uniquely embedded directly in vSphere. Virtual SAN is depicted to the software which virtualizes the storage layer by abstracting and pooling together the direct connected storage devices (SSDs, PCIe, HDDs, etc…) into shared storage. It renders all of the standard storage data services, from availability to snapshots to deduplication.

storage data services

As Virtual SAN is so tightly coupled and integrated with (and dependent on) vSphere, whenever you consider running Virtual SAN, the general understanding and realization are that the compute virtualization piece from vSphere is there too.

Similarly, vSphere with Virtual SAN needs hardware to run it. As we are aware that software without hardware is about as useful as an ejection seat on a helicopter (therefore think about that one for a sec if needed).

HCI refers to the overall solution inclusive of two major components: hyper-converged software and industry-standard hardware. Without both of these components, you cannot have HCI. From the perspective of VMware, our software stack is VMware HCS; however, an HCI software stack might look very distinguished across the various vendors in the market.VMware has a unique merit, that VMware HCS is a tightly integrated (tightly-coupled) software stack embedded in the kernel and is the only present vendor that offers such level of integration. This architectural advantage produces a number of benefits including: simplicity, performance, reliability, and efficiency.

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Do all HCI solutions look alike?

While all HCI solutions usually follow this blueprint consisting of a software stack built on a hypervisor that executes on industry-standard hardware, in the end, they might look very different and might possess varying degrees of integration.

HCI solutions begin with Server Virtualization (some hypervisor that is more times than not vSphere) and then add in software-defined storage abilities. Software-defined storage might be delivered tightly integrated with the existing hypervisor, like Virtual SAN, or bolted on as a virtual storage appliance (having separate VM on each server). This software stack is then loaded onto an x86 platform, along with the industry-standard components (controllers, drives/SSDs, memory …).

Few vendors package which together into a turnkey appliance which can be bought as a single SKU, making those respective HCI layers less transparent and the implementation easier. One such example of that category of HCI solution consists of VCE VxRail HCI and is built on the complete VMware HCS stack.

VMware HCS also provides you the capability to customize your hardware platform. You can select from over 100 pre-certified x86 platforms from all of the main major server vendors. We depict these hardware options our Virtual SAN Ready Nodes.

A benefit of the Ready Node approach is that you can select to deploy hardware which you already aware off. Equally important, however often overlooked, is that the association that you have with a vendor or partner, the procurement process you are equipped with is in place and the support agreements with your preferred server vendor might all be leveraged. No need to generate and create new support and procurement silos. No need to learn and understand a new hardware platform inclusive of how to install, configure and manage it.

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