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SimpliVity launches all-flash appliance models for hyper-convergence

Far from the first to do so, SimpliVity adds all-flash hyper-converged appliances, but waited until price levels dropped to avoid investing 'too early into the buzz.'

SimpliVity Corp. is supporting all-flash appliance products for the first time, and the hyper-converged pioneer...

also added disaster recovery and backup capabilities to its OmniStack software.

SimpliVity sells its own branded OmniCube appliances built on Dell servers. It also makes its OmniStack software available for Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and Lenovo servers to turn them into hyper-converged systems that combine compute, storage and virtualization in one box.

The SimpliVity OmniCube CN-5400-F, Cisco UCS C240 M4 and Lenovo System x3650 M5 will be available with 14 1.6 TB solid-state drives for 18.4 TB of raw flash capacity. Until now, SimpliVity supported two or four 400 GB SSDs, along with four, eight or 20 hard disk drives on its branded and partner configurations.

All SimpliVity nodes are 2U appliances, with a minimum of two nodes per cluster for high availability. Adam Sekora, director of the office of the CTO at SimpliVity, said the vendor will expand the number of available all-flash models.

SimpliVity claimed 18.4 TB of raw flash will come to between 20 TB and 40 TB of effective capacity with its data deduplication. List pricing starts at $131,000 for an all-flash OmniCube and $79,000 for OmniStack software that runs on Cisco and Lenovo all-flash appliances.

SimpliVity is far from the first hyper-converged vendor with all-flash models. Its chief rival, Nutanix, first brought out all-flash appliances in October 2014. EMC (VxRail and VxRack), Pivot3 (vSTAC HCI) and HyperGrid also sell all-flash appliances, and VMware's Virtual SAN hyper-converged software supports all-flash hardware.

"'Why all-flash,' and, 'Why now,' are the questions I get," Sekora said. "It's an important piece of our overall puzzle. For 95% of use cases in high enterprise accounts, all-flash is the last mile. It will allow us to target and support all enterprise workloads."

That explains why all-flash. But why wait until now?

The price of flash has dropped significantly in the last 12 months, and capacity has grown.
Adam Sekoradirector, office of the CTO at SimpliVity

"We didn't want to invest too early into the buzz in flash, because flash previously was too expensive," Sekora said. "The price of flash has dropped significantly in the last 12 months, and capacity has grown. We use 1.6-terabyte drives, and they weren't cost-effective before, compared to our hybrids."

Sekora said using all-flash appliances can increase peak performance up to five times that of hybrids, while reducing latency 50% or more. He identified online transaction processing and big data analytics as prime use cases for all-flash.

SimpliVity will not support clusters mixing hybrid and all-flash appliances for production workloads, although customers will be able to migrate data from hybrids to all-flash nodes. They can also back up data from all-flash appliances to hybrid appliances.

"We won't support mixing in production because of performance disparity," Sekora said. "If a virtual machine lands on a hybrid appliance, there will be slower performance. We don't want customers to run into unexpected bottlenecks due to the way the data is laid out."

Arun Taneja, consulting analyst for Taneja Group Inc., in Hopkinton, Mass., said hyper-converged products need to support all-flash if customers are to go beyond running a single application on them. But he said all-flash is just one step, and hyper-converged vendors also need a greater level of sophistication to give customers peak performance from all-flash.

"Hyper-converged started with VDI," he said. "Then, over the last few years, we've seen them used for other workloads like [Microsoft] SQL Server and Exchange. The question is, can they do mixed workloads -- mission-critical and business-critical workloads -- on the same cluster?

"You can't run all workloads on hyper-converged if you don't have all-flash because some workloads will demand it. But having all-flash by itself is not enough. They also need sophisticated quality of service. The level of sophistication is still not there to the point where people will mix a super-mission-critical workload with 20 other workloads."

SimpliVity also added a RapidDR automated disaster recovery feature and application-aware backups for Microsoft SQL Server. RapidDR automates the DR process for recovering virtual machines, and it sets the recovery in motion with one click. The process is similar to that delivered by third-party tools from Zerto and VMware Site Recovery Manager.

"We recover the whole VM and everything within the VM," Sekora said. RapidDR works only with VMware hypervisors, but Sekora said SimpliVity is working on support for other hypervisors.

SimpliVity is also automating backup and recovery of SQL databases inside of OmniStack, eliminating the need for separate backup software for the application. Sekora said SimpliVity will add application-aware backups for other apps, but started with SQL because 83% of its customers run the applications on its appliances.

Taneja said data protection capabilities are especially important for SimpliVity, which has focused on handling backup and DR on its appliances more than other hyper-converged vendors.

"Simplivity has always stated data protection is an integral part of its solution, and insists the customer doesn't need Veeam [backup software] and Data Domain [backup hardware]," he said. "The fact that SimpliVity controls everything from end to end gives it a nice way to deliver DR."

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