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HP hyper-converged product upgraded, EVO:RAIL dropped

HP launches new ConvergedSystem 250-HC StoreVirtual appliances, as hyper-convergence strategy shifts to one product.

Hewlett-Packard has shifted its hyper-converged strategy, doubling down on its home-built ConvergedSystem 250-HC StoreVirtual platform and dropping its EVO:RAIL appliance sold through a partnership with VMware.

HP now has one product, ConvergedSystem (CS) 250-HC, which is devoted to hyper-convergence as part of an overarching Composable Infrastructure strategy that spans multiple product lines. Composable Infrastructure includes HP's OneView management software, CS 700 and all-flash 3PAR arrays.

The HP hyper-converged offering combines compute, storage, networking and VMware virtualization technology in a single box. This week, HP added new three-node and four-node versions of 250-HC. HP also confirmed that it discontinued sales of the CS 200-HC EVO:RAIL product on July 15, nine months after its launch.

"What we're focused on is providing customers ease of use and ease of management to get into a platform for virtualization. Hyper-converged happens to be the nomenclature that everybody uses for it," said Rob Strechay, director of product management for software-defined storage and hyper-converged at HP.

To illustrate how HP's Composable Infrastructure works, Strechay cited an example involving a customer with a 50 TB database that does heavy analytics. He said the customer expressed interest in hyper-convergence for departmental applications and databases that were not I/O-intensive, but HP's CS 700, or 3PAR array, was a better fit for analytics workload.

In Oct. 2014, HP initiated a dual-pronged, hyper-convergence approach. The CS 240/CS 242 product set was based on HP StoreVirtual Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) software. HP CS 200-HC EVO:RAIL used VMware's virtual SAN (VSAN) hyper-converged software running on HP hardware. The products began shipping in the first quarter, according to Strechay.

The new CS 250 launched this week is an update for the CS 240/CS 242 line.

"We still have the very good relationship with VMware, and we still have more VSAN Ready Nodes than any other VMware partner out there. So we're not backing away from VMware," Strechay said. "I think it's just in how we go to market, this made more sense for us right now."

Ready Nodes are servers that are certified to run VSAN.  HP uses ProLiant hardware for Ready Nodes.

Strechay said that HP will work with VMware to support all CS200-HC EVO:RAIL systems that it sold. He added that HP will continue to offer reference architectures to implement VMware's VSAN software, but the customers would need to put together the system themselves -- in contrast to the single-box, EVO:RAIL approach.

Stuart Miniman, an analyst and principal research contributor at The Wikibon Project, based in Marlborough, Mass., said most VSAN software in use today is not purchased through an EVO:RAIL configuration. He said the current version of EVO:RAIL is immature and has yet to support the most recent VSAN 6.0 release.

"I don't have any feedback from the field that EVO:RAIL is selling like hotcakes," Miniman said. "They've got a lot of partners signed up with it, and I think most of them are waiting for VSAN 6.0 in the EVO:RAIL package before they expect sales to start ramping. VSAN 6.0 has much better functionality."

Russ Fellows, senior partner and analyst at Evaluator Group Inc., based in Boulder, Colo., said a single HP hyper-converged offering makes sense. "Having the EVO:RAIL plus HP's version just creates confusion for the channel, for sales people and for customers," he said via e-mail.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at Taneja Group Inc., based in Hopkinton, Mass., wrote via e-mail that "VSAN-based stuff is a dime a dozen, available from every major vendor." He said HP made the right decision to de-emphasize its version of EVO:RAIL and focus on its StoreVirtual-based hyper-converged offering.

"It can stand on its own and has enough differentiation to do well for HP," Taneja wrote.

The new CS 250-HC uses HP's ProLiant Apollo 2000 Gen 9 hardware and a "configure-to-order" model. The CS 240 and CS 242 were based on Gen 8 hardware.

The entry-level CS 240-HC supported up to 64 CPU cores and 512 GB of memory with slots for 24 Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) drives. CS 242 could hold 16 SAS drives, eight solid-state drives (SSDs), 80 CPU cores and 1 TB of memory. The new CS 250 offers the choice of up to 96 processing cores, a mix of SSD and SAS drives, and up to 2 TB of memory per four-node appliance.

"We'll give our partners and the customers the knobs to turn," Strechay said. "You can mix and match with the memory."

The HP hyper-converged CS 250-HC supports only VMware's hypervisor, although its StoreVirtual technology also supports kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) and Microsoft's Hyper-V, according to Strechay. Another product gap in the CS 250-HC is a lack of data reduction capabilities found in products from competitors, such as Nutanix and Simplivity.

The four-node CS 250-HC StoreVirtual will become available through HP and HP enterprise-authorized channel partners on Aug. 17, and the three-node configuration is due on Sept. 28.

A sample three-node CS 250 with HP’s Foundation Care Pack and VMware’s vSphere Enterprise starts at a list price of $121,483. The price includes three compute nodes with VMware vSphere 5.5 or 6.0 and HP StoreVirtual storage software; two CPUs per server node with a choice of eight cores per server; 128 TB RAM; two 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports and 1 iLO port per node; and 16 SAS small-form-factor (SFF) drives of 1.2 TB each. The vSphere licenses are sold per CPU, HP said.

A sample four-node CS 250 with HP’s Foundation Care Pack and VMware’s vSphere Enterprise starts at a list price of $156,457.  The four-node model includes 24 SAS 1.2 TB drives.

HP said CS 250 customers are required to buy VMware licenses to order the system, but there are special exceptions. For example, customers with existing VMware Enterprise License Agreements purchased through VMware, HP or other means can apply available licenses to the CS 250. The starting list price for the four-node CS 250 is $112,000, and the three-node CS 250 lists at $88,000 without the VMware software. Those prices would apply to customers who intend to use licenses available through their existing VMware enterprise agreements. HP supplied all pricing information.

Strechay said other enhancements in the CS 250-HC include updated StoreVirtual software -- free for existing customers -- OneView InstantOn enhancements to enable customers to start at three nodes and expand later, and the inclusion of three 4 TB StoreVirtual VSA licenses. The VSA licenses allow customers to replicate to other HP StoreVirtual-based products. HP's Helion CloudSystem 9.0, which is built on CS 250, enables hybrid cloud deployments.

Next Steps

How does EVO:RAIL compare to other hyper-converged offerings?

VMware makes changes to EVO:RAIL licensing

2015 poised to see growth in the hyper-converged market

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