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VMware Unfolded the Mystery of Layers of Hyper – Converged Infrastructure

The evolving model of functional requirements is shaping up a hyper-convergence and HCI.

With the combination of faster CPUs, lower cost flash (with trendy technologies over the horizon) and software innovation with the most of the data centers standardizing on server virtualization, now it is the demand of the time to extend present infrastructure investments with novice, modern software-defined solutions.

Three months ago, VMware launched Virtual SAN 6.2 and provided the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) software stack a appropriate name: VMware Hyper-Converged Software (VMware HCS).

Virtual SAN 6.2 launched a major set of new functional features to help enhance space efficiency and management. The VMware HCS is mainly used to refer to the software stack of Virtual SAN, vCenter Server, and vSphere.

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With all the several terms and names being used to depict to HCI and the components, let us take a few minutes to help understanding the terms we use at VMware and make our view of HCI.

Does Virtual SAN = HCI?

We use sometimes HCI, VMware HCS and even Virtual SAN in the similar fashion to refer to a solution where compute and storage functions are provided from the hypervisor software over a common x86 platform (i.e. HCI). While all those mentioned terms are related with HCI, they refer to particular components or groups of components which make up a full hyper-converged infrastructure solution.

It’s imperative to realize that Virtual SAN on its own is not hyper-converged infrastructure.

Virtual SAN is standard software-defined storage which is uniquely embedded directly in vSphere. Virtual SAN is referred to the software which virtualizes the storage layer through abstracting and pooling together the direct attached storage devices (SSDs, PCIe, HDDs, etc…) into the shared storage. It provides all of the standard storage data services, ranging from availability to snapshots to deduplication.

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Because Virtual SAN is so tightly coupled and integrated with (and dependent on) vSphere, whenever we observe running Virtual SAN, the moot point is that the compute virtualization piece from vSphere exists there too.

Same way, vSphere with Virtual SAN needs hardware to run it. The image shown of HCI refers to the overall solution inclusive of two major components: one of the hyper-converged software and another is the industry-standard hardware.

Without both of them HCI cannot be formed. From VMware, our software stack is VMware HCS, however, an HCI software stack might look very different across the multiple vendors in the market.

VMware has unique benefits in that VMware HCS is a tightly coupled integrated software stack embedded in the kernel and it is the only vendor which provides such level of integration.

Such architectural advantage delivers a several benefits consisting of simplicity, performance, efficiency and reliability.

Does all HCI Solutions Look the alike?

While all HCI solutions usually follow this blueprint of having a software stack built on a hypervisor which runs on industry-standard hardware, in the end they can look quite different and can have distinguishing degrees of integration.

HCI solutions commence with server virtualization and then add in software-defined storage abilities. Software-defined storage might be delivered tightly integrated along with the hypervisor, like Virtual SAN, or might be bolted on as a virtual storage appliance (segregated VM on each respective server). That software stack is then loaded over to an x86 platform, with industry-standard components (drives/SSDs, memory, controllers…etc).

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

VMware HCS also provides the abilities to tailor and customize your hardware platform. You can select from over 100 pre-certified x86 platforms among all of the major server vendors. Such hardware options are also known as a Virtual SAN Ready Nodes.

The benefit to the Ready Node approach is that you can select to deploy hardware which you already know. Equally important, however often overlooked, is that the relationships which you have with a partner or vendor, the procurement process you might have in place and the support agreements done with your preferred server vendor can all be leveraged. Creation of new support and procurement silos are not required. No need to learn a new hardware platform inclusive of how to install, configure and manage it.

Avail Hands-On with VMware HCS

In case you wish to see these components in action, then you may test-drive Virtual SAN today free of cost with online hands-on labs. It is a lab HOL-SDC-1608.

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