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SimpliVity prepares 'hyper-converged' OmniCube

Startup SimpliVity promises its OmniCube 'hyper-converged' stack of storage, compute and networking will replace a wide range of data center devices.

SimpliVity Corp. came out of stealth today, promising an integrated stack of storage, compute and networking in 2U appliances that can be managed through VMware's vCenter console.

SimpliVity CEO and founder Doron Kempel hailed his company's OmniCube as a VM-centric system that can handle most of the functions of enterprise storage and networking.

OmniCube is a 2U system consisting of compute, software, a PCIe flash acceleration card and flash memory. It has eight 3 terabyte (TB) hard drives and four 200 GB solid-state drives (SSDs) to accelerate hot data.

OmniCubes are used in a network of two or more, and more OmniCubes can be added locally, remotely or in the cloud to scale the network. All policies and operations can be managed from vCenter.

The devices dedupe and compress data at inception at 4 KB to 8 KB data sets and send those sets across nodes locally, remotely and to the cloud. Kempel said OmniCube removes the need for dedicated primary and backup deduplication, WAN optimization, cloud gateways and caching appliances, as well as storage arrays.

He said customers can run a virtual appliance version of OmniCube on Amazon's EC2 cloud, send their backups to EC2 and restore from there.

"We're primary storage, we're Data Domain for dedupe, we're Riverbed for WAN acceleration, we're a cloud gateway like StorSimple, and we have VM centricity that eclipses Tintri," he said. "We're a data center in a box."

He said OmniCube differs from existing converged products and stacks sold by major vendors because those vendors have merely combined legacy products.

"The current [legacy] stack doesn't allow you to add functionality," he said. "Each box has its own file system and processors, all islands of general purpose computing with an application that is overprovisioned."

The Westborough, Mass.-based startup raised $18 million in funding to develop its OmniCube. Kempel previously founded Diligent Technologies Inc. and sold the backup deduplication vendor to IBM in 2008.

Kempel said OmniCube will be available near the end of 2012, priced at $54,900 for about 20 TB to 40 TB of usable data and 10 VM cores.

Customers are still testing early OmniCubes, so it's too early to determine if the system will live up to the boasts of SimpliVity's CEO.

Adam Winter, president of SwiftecIT, an IT service provider based in Shrewsbury, Mass., said he is testing two OmniCubes. Winter said he wouldn't use OmniCube in production until it is a shipping product, but he said he's put his appliances through stress tests and "so far, we haven't found any issues."

He also identified use cases for when OmniCube ships. For instance, he said he foresees using three OmniCubes to replace three-and-a-half racks of gear for one customer who has 30 physical servers and one IT person to manage them. "That would give them better performance, more storage and higher availability than they have now," Winter said. "They'd be buying three servers instead of 30. And operationally, they would need heating and cooling for three systems instead of 30 systems."

Winter said he likes that OmniCube's vCenter tab shows him deduplication and compression ratios, as well as all his backups and where they are located.

"When they have the DR portion working, we'll also see backups at a remote site," he said. "I'm amazed at how much they have on this one screen integrated into VMware."

Winter said he envisions installing OmniCubes at his customers' sites so they can back up to an OmniCube at SwiftecIT's data center. "They'll only see their portion of data in the OmniCube," he said.

Winter said he currently uses a mixture of SMB storage devices -- including Dell EqualLogic, Drobo, QNAP and other JBODs (just a bunch of disks) -- internally and for customers. He said his internal data center is running 30 virtual machines with five ESXi hosts, four switches and four storage devices.

"To make a change, we need to know the IP addresses of the storage, IP addresses of switches, and … the username and password for all those devices," Winter said. "With OmniCube, we could do everything from one screen. We don't have to log in to six screens."

Arun Taneja, president of Hopkinton, Mass.-based analyst firm Taneja Group Inc., said SimpliVity fits into a new technology category that he calls "hyper-convergence." He said that goes beyond converged systems that include storage, compute and networking in one architecture. He said hyper-convergence removes the need for storage networking.

So far, he said SimpliVity, Nutanix and Scale Computing's coming HC3 product fit into the new category. Besides selling a "data center in a box," those vendors have designed storage for virtual machines that is easier to provision and manage.

"They're taking storage management and compute management away from a customer and looking at it through the centricity of a virtual machine rather than through a logical unit number (LUN) or networking port," Taneja said. "They're taking all that away and telling the customer, 'Define a virtual machine, what application you want to run and I'll do everything else -- I'll decide how to protect it, where to protect it, what type of storage to use and what type of caching. I'll take all those variables away and give you quality of service at the virtual machine level.'

"It's very different than anything we've done before. It's like buying one appliance that has everything in it."

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