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The major hyper-converged vendors -- SimpliVity, Nutanix and VMware with EVO:RAIL -- design infrastructure to scale, with some noteworthy differences.
Hyper-converged infrastructures package together all the IT components from compute and storage to hypervisor-based virtualization for an application or service to grow. This removes the traditional one-to-one relationship between a physical system and an instance of an operating system. This package is sourced from one vendor and requires little effort or expertise to build. Traditional hardware platforms require a forklift replacement or expansion to scale up -- typically a very expensive process.
Real or virtual, data centers require resources to run and grow. Compute (processing power and memory), storage and network bandwidth determine what workloads a system can handle and its ability to scale. Hyper-converged shoppers will want to compare SimpliVity vs. Nutanix vs. VMware EVO:RAIL on processor count and power as well as the number of nodes per system to determine scalability. This comparison focuses on the highest-powered system that each provider offers.
Virtualization support and CPU offerings
Nutanix, SimpliVity and VMware support the ability to run VMware as the virtualization environment. Nutanix also supports Microsoft Hyper-V and the Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor.
All the hyper-converged offerings are Intel-based but cover a wide range of the current CPU offerings. VMware and Nutanix offer Intel E5 processors. Depending upon the appliance model, these can be third-generation Ivy Bridge CPUs or the fourth-generation Haswell processors. For its part, SimpliVity's line is based on Intel's Xeon server CPUs: the Xeon E5-2600 v2 (Ivy Bridge) and the Xeon E5-2600 v3 (Haswell).
SimpliVity OmniCube appliance
SimpliVity's OmniCube line includes five appliances, each progressively more powerful than the one below it. The OmniCube provides one compute node per appliance, versus some of the Nutanix and VMware appliances that have up to four nodes per appliance.
At its high end, the OmniCube CN-5400 provides 28 cores of dual Intel Haswell processors, 1,400 gigabyte (GB) of memory, 4 x 4 GB of solid-state drives (SSD) and a 20 x 1.2 terabyte (TB) hard disk. It has a network capacity of up to 4 x 10 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) plus 2 x GbE.
Nutanix Xtreme platform
The Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform comes in a range of systems from single to four node appliances.
Unlike SimpliVity, Nutanix offers eight configurations of one, two and four node per-appliance systems. The systems are designed to tune resources to different environments, not so one model offers more of every resource than another.
There are Nutanix nodes providing up to 36 cores of dual Intel Haswell processors, 768 GB of memory, two 1.6 TB of SSDs and five hard drives of up to 6 TB capacity each. Networking capacity is up to a quad-port 10 GbE. Different appliances in the Xtreme Computing line offer different maximum configurations. There does not appear to be a single super appliance with the maximum offering of all resources.
VMware is the incumbent in many environments and is a leading virtualization vendor, but its hyper-converged infrastructure offering is unlike Nutanix and SimpliVity's designs. VMware does not actually sell the EVO:RAIL appliance as VMware-branded hardware. Partners such as Dell, Supermicro and others provide the hyper-converged package based on VMware's specs.
VMware EVO:RAIL can scale out to eight appliances per cluster for a total of 32 ESXi virtual hosts.
On a per-node basis, VMware notes up to 12 cores of Intel E5 processors (Ivy Bridge/Haswell), 192 GB of memory, 400 GB of SSD and 3.6 TB raw capacity of hard drive space. Networking capacity is 2 x 10 GbE of network interface cards plus an Ethernet management port.
Evaluating Nutanix vs. VMware vs. SimpliVity
While each vendor supports a broad range of functions, there are differences to consider. Where VMware is an acknowledged leader in the virtualization space, it is a relative newcomer to hyper-convergence, as it announced EVO:RAIL in 2014. Nutanix and SimpliVity started in 2009 and focused exclusively on building these software-defined hyper-converged appliances.
At the time of writing, VMware has nine hardware partners for EVO:RAIL, versus Nutanix, which works exclusively with Dell. The Nutanix argument is that it can focus on ease of use and quality of integration with a single vendor. IT shops purchase the Nutanix appliance directly from Dell, which is potentially a streamlined transition to hyper-converged infrastructure for existing Dell customers.
Nutanix and SimpliVity offer advanced functions currently absent from the VMware EVO:RAIL offering. Features such as data deduplication and compression/decompression can have a big effect on storage requirements and application performance as well. The EMC EVO:RAIL offering includes features for storage management; others do not. If your data environment can benefit from more sophisticated management, look more closely at longer-established hyper-converged infrastructure vendors Nutanix and SimpliVity, or other competitors in the market.
From a hardware perspective, all offerings from VMware EVO:RAIL, SimpliVity and Nutanix are highly scalable. VMware and other virtualization platforms have already proven their ability to allocate and reallocate physical resources dynamically and nondisruptively -- and these current hyper-converged infrastructure products certainly seem to meet the demands of any commercial environment. For sheer power, most users will find that any of the three offer more than sufficient scalability.
About the author:
Kevin Tolly is founder of The Tolly Group, which provides third-party validation/testing services. Tolly is also the founder and CEO of Tolly Research, which provides research services to IT vendors and end-user companies.
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