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Gridstore Inc. gives Hyper-V storage a hyper-converged twist

Gridstore adds servers to its storage nodes for Microsoft Hyper-V and becomes the latest hyper-converged vendor.

Gridstore Inc. is joining the hyper-converged market with today's launch of appliances combining its Microsoft Hyper-V storage nodes with servers in the same box.

The 2U Gridstore HyperConverged Appliances are available as all-flash or hybrid configurations. The all-flash versions consist of three or four servers with each server holding 6 TB of solid-state drive (SSD) capacity for 18 TB or 24 TB of flash. Each SSD uses 5 TB for storage and 1 TB for caching. After the first three- or four-server node, customers can add nodes with one, two, three or four servers and stripe data across the drives.

The hybrid version is also available with three or four servers. Each server has three slots, two for 4 TB SATA drives and one for 1 TB SSDs. A four-server configuration consists of 32 TB of hard drives and 4 TB of SSD cache.

Each server runs Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter edition and Hyper-V. The appliances use Windows Server's post-processing data deduplication and other storage management features.

Each server has two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Gridstore CEO George Symons said the vendor will have an Ethernet switch from a partner on the price list but there is no switching in the box.

The appliances are scheduled for general availability at the end of October. Pricing starts at $98,000 for a three-node hybrid with 24 TB of hard drive capacity and 3 TB of SSD cache.

Symons said the major use cases for the HyperConverged Appliance are virtual desktop infrastructure, remote offices and as a "starter kit for Hyper-V."

Gridstore began shipping its Hyper-V storage nodes in 2013. This year, it scaled those storage nodes to 48 TB and added the ability to manage storage, servers and hosts through Microsoft System Center's Virtual Machine (VM) Manager. Gridstore does not yet have an all-flash storage node, but Symons said that is on the roadmap.

The HyperConverged Appliance includes the same virtual controller (vController) that is part of each Gridstore storage node. The vController creates a storage grid, striping data across nodes, using erasure codes for fault tolerance and providing each VM with its own storage stack. Instead of using a three-way replica to protect against failures, Gridstore's erasure coding breaks an I/O block into pieces. The pieces are encoded to prevent data loss without disruption and distributed in parallel across nodes.

"This is the same architecture that our storage nodes have," Symons said of the HyperConverged Appliance. "It was actually pretty easy for us to get here from where we were."

Symons said Gridstore executives were watching the hyper-converged market and considered implementing hyper-convergence for its first product but waited for customer demand.

"We've been hearing from a lot of customers and prospects that they like this type of deployment," he said.

Hyper-V support makes Gridstore Inc. different

Symons hopes Gridstore's Hyper-V support gives it a leg up on other hyper-converged players. Early hyper-converged products from Nutanix and SimpliVity supported only VMware hypervisors (Scale Computing uses KVM in its hyper-converged product). Nutanix has added Hyper-V support and SimpliVity is adding it, but Symons is counting on Gridstore tying into the Microsoft hypervisor more tightly than others.

Of course, the most notable newcomer to hyper-convergence -- VMware -- is built for its own hypervisors.

"We sit as a native device driver within Hyper-V, so all of the I/Os in our system go straight through to the storage," Symons said. "We use less CPU because our of our native Windows Hyper-V integration."

Is there a market for software-defined storage?

Arun Taneja, consulting analyst at Taneja Group, said he expects other vendors to follow Gridstore's move into hyper-convergence, but only if they have the right software to make it work.

"I think you'll see more and more of this from companies that have the right software-defined architecture," he said. "Most don't have it. But if you have it, then you have the baseline to extend into hyper-convergence. It's a different way to get there."

Concentrating on Hyper-V cuts down Gridstore's potential customer base, although the firm's Symons said he sees the Hyper-V market "finally getting legs. It's taken longer than I would have hoped for and wished for, but we're finally seeing it."

Next Steps

Gridstore Inc. adds Windows support, capacity to arrays

New Gridstore partner program targets VARs

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