Hyper-converged infrastructure options, vendors and installation tips
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VMware is one of the best known commercial virtualization companies in the world. It also claims to be the first vendor to offer a commercial virtualization product for the x86 architecture. Leveraging its leadership position in the virtualization market, VMware offers hyper-convergence through its Virtual SAN (VSAN) virtualized storage add-on used in tandem with VMware ESX and ESXi bare-metal hypervisors or vSphere.
VMware's hyper-convergence products come primarily from a marriage of vSphere and VSAN, the company's virtualization and virtualized storage platforms, respectively. That said, the VMware hyper-converged software offerings include hardware, the VCE VxRail appliance, a variety of VSAN Ready Nodes, and a turnkey integrated system option called VMware Cloud Foundation, which brings together the company's vSphere, VSAN and NSX platforms into one stack to enable enterprise-ready public and private cloud infrastructures.
VMware's hyper-converged software is designed to make hyper-converged infrastructure easy to deploy and operate. The vendor's integrated offerings all ship with preinstalled and prelicensed VMware software. The runtime environment offers integrated storage, compute and networking capabilities and provides the proverbial single pane of glass for setup, configuration and management.
Customers with existing investments in VMware for virtualization may find this to be a comfortable and logical path into hyper-convergence. Users who elect to implement VMware hyper-converged software have their choice of three bundled packages: VCE VxRail, VSAN Ready Nodes or VMware Cloud Foundation. Each package involves slightly different building blocks, costs and configurations. Prospective customers will want to investigate those for the best fit to their workloads, current and planned scaling and budget.
Clarity and intelligibility
For each VMware hyper-converged software path -- VCE VxRail, VSAN Ready Nodes and VMware Cloud Foundation -- customers will find a collection of information about packaging, features, functions and scalability. The relevant VMware web pages are chock full of charts and tables delineating the various choices within the individual product families or paths to help customers understand their options. Those who pursue the VSAN approach also have a TCO and Sizing Calculator they can use to help them approach build your own or predefined Ready Node configuration.
For the VCE VxRail appliance approach, the building blocks are simple and straightforward: Up to 64 nodes per cluster with four different model numbers (60, 120, 160 and 200) that have various CPU, RAM and storage configurations to ponder.
Things get more complicated for VSAN Ready Nodes, as a quick trip through the TCO and Sizing Calculator for a four-node, 100 virtual client virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) scenario illustrates. Users can choose between build your own or predefined Ready Nodes and work from there.
VMware Cloud Foundation aims primarily at customers seeking to implement private and public clouds in a turnkey fashion. It offers high scalability: eight servers minimum per rack with no less than 192 CPU cores, 3 TB RAM, 76.8 TB storage, with up to 250 servers or 700 VDI virtual machines.
For its Cloud Foundation platform, VMware prevalidates and approves specific hardware configurations from qualified partners with lots of options for CPU, memory, disk storage and so forth. The vendor also offers the ability to consume Cloud Foundation as a service from leading cloud service providers and plans to offer its own vCloud Air version soon.
Because all VMware hyper-converged software activity originates and emanates from the hypervisor, the company is not shy about touting its efficiency for compute, storage and networking functions. The best way to determine the veracity or validity of those claims for a specific workload is to implement a proof-of-concept configuration and acquire relevant metrics.
Pricing and licensing
VMware's TCO and Sizing Calculator offers a very good indication of costs over the entire lifecycle of a hyper-converged system and includes most, if not all, of the key cost factors, including hardware and software. Pricing information for VCE VxRail is available using a request quote link from the VMware site. Customers can purchase VMware Cloud Foundation software through VMware and prequalified hardware from partners, or they can purchase the entire package from partners. Pricing information is best obtained from those partners or by referral through VMware sales.
VMware typically charges 20% of the initial software -- and, where applicable, system – price, and more for technical support on an annual basis. The company offers half a dozen different levels of support for on-premises technology:
- Basic Support: Non-critical support offered 12 hours a day, five days a week.
- Production Support: Provides support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for critical issues, such as when a system is down.
- Business Critical Support: Offers personalized support from a designated team.
- Mission-Critical Support: Ensures priority access to senior-level engineers and promises proactive account management 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Carrier Support: Support for Telco customers.
- Extended Support: Offers businesses protection against security threats and mission-critical issues after the product reaches the end of its support.
There are another five levels of support for hosted technology, plus support for developers, federal customers and more. There is a 24 hour, seven day- a week support plan for infrastructure as a service customers. VMware also offers two On-Demand support services -- one for email and one for production -- that run 24x7 and are for critical issues. There are also two software as a service (SaaS) support plans:
- Basic: 12 hours a day, five days a week for non-critical support of SaaS products.
- Production support: Offers 24x7 support.
Special features and capabilities
VMware offers credit for VMware products that prospective buyers already own when purchasing VMware hyper-converged software offerings through its Fair Value Conversion program. Customers can obtain details of the program from their VMware account representative.
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