peshkova - Fotolia

EMC's newest rack-scale hyper-converged runs without VMware

VCE's hyper-converged in size large had forced you to build a private cloud using VMware -- until now.

A new rack-scale hyper-converged offering from EMC gives enterprises a way to welcome open source into the data center with OpenStack and avoid software from VMware, a member of the EMC Federation.

Adding OpenStack compatibility to VxRack, officially called VxRack System with Neutrino Nodes, is part of a greater message from storage vendor EMC Corp. that it sees a role for open source.

The VxRack 1000 is "substantially bigger" than any other hyper-converged products, which are typically focused on providing a single, all-in-one box to make deployment easy, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass.

The release of VxRack Neutrino later this year will mean open source Project Caspian enters the marketplace as a software and hardware bundle, the result of EMC's purchase of Cloudscaling in 2014, to create an OpenStack-in-a-box appliance that simplifies and automates deployment of OpenStack components.

The bulk of VCE's business has been converged systems. Vblock offers convergence through hardware engineering. VxRack is part of VCE's move into the hyper-converged space, where the value is in the software, Kerravala said. In this case, though, the software isn't from VMware.

"VCE is targeting a much different audience than the traditional hyper-converged players such as SimpliVity and Nutanix," he said, going after large enterprises looking to move to a cloud first model that could have VxRack as the foundation of the cloud with the hope to scale quickly.

Right now, they would rather you adopt SDDC or Flex, but they now have Neutrino if you want it. EMC is bridging the gap between the VMware-only world and the open world.
Patrick Moorheadfounder, president and principal analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy

While VxRack Neutrino starts with support for OpenStack, Kerravala sees it later including Apache Hadoop and VMware Photon Platform.

"Open source is very important to us," said Chirantan "CJ" Desai, president of EMC's emerging technologies division, pointing to last year when EMC made ViPR Controller available as open source through Project CoprHD. The goal of EMC {code} is to find ways to make EMC products easily work with the developer community, he said.

VxRack Neutrino is one of three software flavors for VxRack, which debuted at EMC World 2015. VxRack System 1000 with SDDC Nodes is "100% focused on vSphere" for customers who want to use vSphere at rack-scale, said Chad Sakac, president of VCE, the converged platform division of EMC.

"If you want to scale across racks you need to think about the network topology upfront," Sakac said. VxRack is designed to scale big and simplify the physical networking and SDN layer within its design and support. VxRack FLEX combines EMC's ScaleIO to abstract storage and offers multiple choices for server virtualization software, including vSphere or Linux KVM. Each of the three models represents a different software stack, but each appliance is built on top of commodity hardware.

VxRack Neutrino is "purpose built for cloud native applications," Sakac said, and is designed to simplify the deployment of open source for so-called third platform or cloud native applications. It will be available in the third quarter of 2016.

"Right now, they would rather you adopt SDDC or Flex, but they have Neutrino if you want it," said Patrick Moorhead, founder, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas. "EMC is bridging the gap between the VMware-only world and the open world."

The Neutrino version of VxRack is designed to provide a so-called turnkey, open source-based infrastructure that is "ready to consume," in much how VCE has pitched Vblock since 2009. It starts with OpenStack, but EMC leaders say there are plans to include more open source choices.

Products such as VxRack are in response to the idea that building a converged platform stack and then running it can be complex, Sakac said. 

"Not only building it and engineering it, but then sustaining it, patching it, updating it and supporting it is massive," Sakac said. "This is the thing that is driving the trend more and more toward converged consumption models."

A much different audience

In many ways, the rack-scale VxRack Neutrino offering is antithetical to SDDC, ditching VMware's vSphere and virtualization management stack in favor of a cloud-native architecture based on OpenStack and similar to what is used by Web-scale companies with a resilient design built into software.

Larry Rau, the director of architecture and infrastructure at Verizon Communications Inc., is an EMC customer that embraces open source as part of a move to a software-defined world.

Open source software will create stronger products, he said during a keynote presentation at EMC World, and Verizon wants to be part of it.

He admitted that EMC was not the first vendor name on his mind when it came to open source.

"When we adopt open source it doesn't mean we don't use other products," he said. "We want to use the best innovation that makes sense."

VxRack is designed for large customers, such as Verizon, that want to scale elastically using hyper-converged infrastructure across multiple racks, Sakac said. "The system starts with the top of rack switches as part of the design," he said, and can start with a small number of nodes. "From there on it is a hyper-converged system, you literally just add nodes and you can scale with more and more racks."

It can go up to thousands of nodes, tens of petabytes of data, a petabyte of DRAM and include 10,000 or more cores, Sakac said.

"These things are really designed to scale big," he said.

The idea builds off of VCE's role within the EMC Federation and soon within Dell Technologies, to be the place where IT pros buy hardware rather than build it so they can deploy faster.

"This is squarely in the buy category," Moorhead said. "That's big iron and to put together a fully converged system like that puts in further up the chain."

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at [email protected].

Next Steps

Examine potential synergies between EMC, Dell technology

Learn about the essentials of OpenStack  

OpenStack adoption gets a boost in the enterprise

Dig Deeper on Converged infrastructure (CI)