Hyper-converged infrastructure options, vendors and installation tips
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Scale Computing HC3 hyper-converged appliances -- a combination of servers, virtualization, configuration and management, SAN or NAS, and networking -- are available in a single package. The vendor's hallmark is extreme simplicity and ease of use.
Scale Computing targets organizations that do not have -- or wish to minimize -- the dedicated IT staff required to run hyper-converged appliances. In early August 2016, Scale Computing announced a partnership with Workspot Inc., enabling a single virtual desktop infrastructure to employ one or more of its HC3 clusters to create a simple and seamless virtual desktop environment.
The Scale Computing HC3 virtualization platform is offered as an appliance the company calls a "complete data center in a box." Products are designed to install in less than an hour and to deploy new virtual machines (VMs) in minutes. Software-defined hybrid storage is included and creates tiers on an automated basis. HC3 uses its own hypervisor, which is built on a kernel-based virtual machine (KVM), and supports a single pane of glass to manage all aspects of the system. Scale Computing touts a single-vendor, one-stop support experience with no separate systems or elements that need integration. Customers range from SMBs to distributed enterprises.
Simplicity and complexity
Scale Computing HC3 hyper-converged appliances allow administrators to drop three to eight nodes into a rack, cable them together and fire up a configuration wizard that gets the entire system up and running in fewer than 60 minutes. Automatic detection and integration lets admins add or remove nodes with relative ease. Scale Computing works closely with customers to provide tools and scripts to automate and simplify routine tasks, and will also provide custom scripting assistance upon request.
Clarity and intelligibility
Scale Computing states that no training is required to manage its HC3 hyper-converged appliances. A combination of simple software, step-by-step directions and software wizards make it easy for users to work with the HC3 components. The company diligently documents its systems, as well as the systems' operation and behavior. This includes a plethora of videos that walk users through even the most common tasks involved in using the gear: adding resources, scheduling snapshots, performing replications or upgrades, failover, cloning VMs and more.
The minimum Scale Computing HC3 cluster comprises three nodes, but can include as many as eight. Products come in three levels.
HC1000: The HC1100 and HC1150 models are similar; the HC1100 supports six cores at 1.7 GHz, while the HC1150 supports eight cores at 2.1 GHz (up to 3 GHz single threaded). Each 1U node includes 64 GB of RAM and 3 TB or 4 TB of SAS disks.
HC2000: The HC2100 and HC2150 models carry six and eight cores, respectively. The HC2100 clocks in at 2.4 GHz and includes 64 GB of RAM with up to 7.2 TB of SAS disks. The HC2150 runs at 2.6 GHz and has up to 128 GB of RAM with up to 18 TB of SAS disks.
HC4000: The HC4100 and HC4150 carry 12 and 16 cores, respectively. HC4100 runs at 2.4 GHz and includes 128 GB of RAM with up to 14.4 TB of SAS disks. The HC4150 clocks in at 2.6 GHz and has up to 384 GB of RAM with up to 12 TB (6 x 2TB) of SAS disks.
All Scale Computing product families are on the company's product list, with ample information available in the supporting documents.
Overhead and efficiency
The Scale Computing HC3 runtime environment is built around a customized version of the KVM hypervisor, and it includes high-efficiency, block-level I/O for storage access. It is clear that the vendor has built its runtime to minimize overhead for access to VMs and for I/O of all kinds.
Pricing and licensing
Scale Computing publishes pricing information and is happy to discuss its hyper-converged appliances with prospective customers. The HC1100 system is available for $7,799 per node, while the HC1150 is $8,559 per node. The HC2100 and HC2150 systems are priced at $11,700 and $20,500 per node, respectively. The HC4100 costs $22,600 per node and the HC4150 is $35,875 per node. In the summer of 2016, Scale Computing added a new, low-end hybrid flash appliance for $24,500 for a three-node cluster.
The first year of technical support is included as part of the warranty for all HC3 appliances. Customers can extend premium support for three or five years at the time of purchase. Support contracts renew annually (or for longer periods by negotiation) thereafter. ScaleCare Support includes remote installation services, wherein the Indianapolis-based support team assists with the setup and configuration of an HC3 cluster, and provides a walkthrough of the user interface for new users. Other services are available from Scale Computing for a fee, including remote failover to a second HC3 cluster, network configuration (planning, configuring and validating an HC3 cluster) and migration, which includes physical-to-virtual or virtual-to-virtual migrations, including planning, setup and post-migration health checks.
Special features and capabilities
The company makes storage- or compute-intensive nodes available in addition to its standard compute-storage-networking nodes. Pricing information, as well as information on specialized hyper-converged appliances, is available upon request from Scale Computing's sales organization.
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