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Promise Technology reveals VSkyCube hyper-converged hardware

Promise VSkyCube customers can start with one node and scale to 36 appliances per cluster. Small to medium-sized enterprises are the target audience.

Promise Technology jumped into the surging hyper-convergence market, previewing a line of software-defined storage hardware aimed mostly at small and midsized enterprises.

Promise refers to its hyper-converged infrastructure as VSkyCube, which consists of five x86-based hybrid storage appliances: VSky c100; VSky i100 and i200; and VSky s200 and s400. Customers can start with a single c100 base building block and scale to 36 nodes per cluster by mixing and matching VSky models.

All VSkyCube appliances run Promise VSky View storage software, which handles flash tuning and infrastructure management across multiple VSky appliances. The initial VSkyCube rollout bundles the vendor's VSky Box file sync-and-share application -- formerly branded as FileCruiser -- as well as VSky Point desktop virtualization software.

Subsequent software bundles will include VSky Stor NAS gateway for running block storage on VSkyCube, VSky Motion for migrating disaster recovery workloads to Amazon Simple Storage Service cloud storage, and VSky Data for Hadoop analytics. Promise Technology's existing customers will not need additional software licenses to receive the future software upgrades.

Start with single VSkyCube node, scale to three dozen per cluster

Jason Pan, Promise Technology senior director of product marketing and business development, said VSkyCube lets customers dip their toes in hyper-converged waters before taking the full plunge. Most hyper-converged systems require a three-node minimum for high availability. Promise lets customers start at one node, but they give up the data protection that a three-node cluster brings.

"Where we differentiate is by letting you start with one node," Pan said. "You aren't going to get high availability [that way], but with a starting price of $14,950, it gives small and medium-sized enterprises a way to get started with hyper-convergence. They can add high-availability features by scaling the cluster."

Promise lets customers start at one node, but they give up the data protection that a three-node cluster brings.

Promise VSky Cube servers are equipped with RAID 5 disk protection for data. Pan said the hardware line is expected to be generally available in May, with the exception of the high-capacity VSky s400. A specific release date was not disclosed for that product.

A software-only version of VSkyCube is planned for distribution mainly to system integrators that cobble together customized hyper-converged appliances.

Promise Technology evolves with VSkyCube hyper-convergence

Promise is best known for selling disk arrays and storage array subsystems designed on commodity hardware. It sells those storage products primarily to companies in media and entertainment. The vendor also supports object storage with its VSky A-Series arrays.

Colm Keegan, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said Promise will concentrate on the SMB and small enterprise market because of its price point.

"They've been playing in the multiprotocol attached storage market for years and have grown up along the way. The new hyper-converged platform gives SMBs an attractive price point with economies of scale and decent software functionality that checks all the boxes. They definitely fit a need in the market, that's for sure," Keegan said.

Each VSkyCube appliance has two Intel Xeon E5-2630 v3 processors, 256 GB of RAM and at least one 480 GB solid-state drive. Promise Technology integrates the open source KVM hypervisor software, but does not support VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V. Scale Computing is the only other hyper-converged vendor to solely support KVM.

The 1U VSky c100 is intended for compute-intensive workloads that don't require high storage capacity. Three slots for 4 TB nearline SAS drives provide 12 TB of raw capacity.

VSky i100/i200 Series 1U arrays are for applications that need balanced compute and storage. Up to seven 1.2 TB SAS hard disk drives can be inserted in the VSky i100 chassis, providing 8.4 TB of raw storage.

The VSky i200 is sold as a 2U four-node RAIN cluster for high reliability and fault tolerance. The four nodes share the same chassis and power infrastructure. Each i200 node supports five 1.2 TB SAS drives. Raw capacity per cluster is 24 TB.

The high-end VSkyCube S Series targets storage-centric environments. The s200 2U node scales to 44 TB of raw storage with three 4 TB SAS HDDs and eight 4 TB SATA drives.

The s400 will be the highest capacity node, with three 2 TB SAS drives and 32 4 TB SATA disks for 134 TB of raw storage per node. The 4U s400 scales to two nodes, each of which supports approximately 87 TB of effective capacity. The s400 adds a second 480 GB SSD for 960 GB of flash cache.

Pan said effective storage is roughly 65% of the raw total for each model. The Promise arrays incorporate flash as a caching mechanism, although users could adjust the proportion of flash for primary storage by swapping SATA disks for SSDs.

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