Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a software-centric architecture that combines all the elements of a traditional datacenter: storage, compute, networking and management into a single integrated software-defined package. This convergence implies that organizations will no longer need separate compute and storage systems, nor will they need to face the hassles of coordination and optimization of storage and compute resources and expense management. Over the past few years, the HCI market has evolved as customers shift toward hybrid cloud and software-defined infrastructure. Here is a compilation of some of the top HCI vendors in the market, their product features, and use-cases.
1. Nutanix Acropolis
Nutanix provides a unified hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) platform offering convergence of on-premises, edge, and multicloud environments. This software-defined HCI platform is powered by Acropolis Operating System (AOS) or Nutanix Acropolis, one of the most popular operating systems for the HCI platform. It contains several data services and features for data protection, scalability, automated data tiering, space efficiency, and security.
Nutanix Acropolis can be broken down into the following foundational components: the Distributed Storage Fabric (DSF), the App Mobility Fabric (AMF), and Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV). Acropolis platform users can use the built-in proprietary hypervisor called Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) which is based on Linux KVM. Customers can run the AHV hypervisor as a standalone platform or alongside another hypervisor such as VMware vSphere ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V.
The Acropolis DSF automatically tiers data across the cluster to different classes of storage devices. It uses intelligent data placement algorithms for best performance, which makes the most frequently used data available in memory or in flash on the node local to the virtual machine. The AMF’s powerful technologies allow applications and data to move freely between runtime environments including from non-Nutanix infrastructure to Nutanix systems, between multiple Nutanix systems supporting different hypervisors, and from Nutanix to public clouds.
In addition, AOS offers Nutanix’s proprietary Prism tool, which furnishes one-click infrastructure management for virtual environments running on Acropolis. It can be used to manage the entire AOS environment. AOS also includes Karbon, a fully integrated component of the Nutanix AHV for Kubernetes orchestration. Karbon integrates open-source tools for cluster monitoring, logging, and alerting, including Prometheus, ElasticSearch, Fluent Bit, and Kibana (EFK stack) on every cluster.
Unlike other competing vendors, Nutanix offers Acropolis as part of the Hyperconverged platform without any licensing costs.
2. Dell EMC VxRail
Dell EMC’s VxRail is a turnkey hyperconverged appliance based on VMware’s Virtual Storage Area Network (vSAN) technology. Dell EMC provides deep integration with the VMware Cloud Foundation, bringing together the company’s vSphere, VSAN, and NSX platforms into one stack to enable enterprise-ready public and private cloud infrastructures.
Dell EMC VxRail has replaced the EMC Vspex Blue product. It was a part of EMC’s Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) converged infrastructure division. Later on, EMC was acquired by Dell and the Converged Platform Division of EMC emerged as the Converged Platform and Solutions Division of Dell EMC. It fits into the appliances category of VCE’s blocks, racks, and appliances strategy.
The VxRail portfolio includes VxRail Appliance G Series (general-purpose workloads), E Series (entry-level/low-level), P Series (heavy workloads), S Series (demanding applications), V Series (VDI-optimized graphics ready).
Dell EMC VxRail is suitable for a wide variety of applications and workloads. It is designed to serve the needs of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environments, Remote Offices/Branch Offices (ROBO), private clouds, and small and midsize enterprises that want to run Kubernetes at a cloud-scale. The VxRail entry-level nodes are for remote office or space-constrained locations, high-performance nodes are optimized for heavy workloads, such as databases, capacity-optimized nodes are for use cases such as collaboration and data & analytics.
3. Cisco HyperFlex
Cisco HyperFlex (HX) is a hyperconverged infrastructure platform that combines software-defined storage and data services software with Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).
Cisco HX systems is a purpose-built platform that supports multiple hypervisors and virtualized environments (Hyper-V, Microsoft Windows Server 2019, and VMware vSphere), Docker containers with Kubernetes, multicloud services, and edge deployments. Cisco’s HCI initiatives are based on Intel Xeon Scalable processors and run VMware 5.5 or later hypervisors and Cisco Data Platform software.
Cisco HX Data Platform combines the cluster’s SSDs, HDDs, and NVMe drives into a single distributed, multitier, object-based data store. Cisco HX offers a variety of flexible Hyperconverged infrastructure configurations. These include:
- Cisco HX Hybrid Nodes such as Cisco’s HX220c M5 and HX240c M5, and HX240c for general-purpose workloads.
- Cisco HX All-Flash and All NVMe Nodes such as Cisco’s HX220c AF M5 and Hx240c AF M5 for mission-critical workloads.
- Cisco HX Edge such as the HX220c Edge M5 for remote and branch offices.
- Cisco HX compute-only nodes such as B Series or C Series servers.
Cisco HX systems empower data and applications, optimize operations from the core datacenter to the edge and into public clouds, and increase agility by accelerating DevOps practices. Cisco HX Application Platform provides enterprise-class data management features, multiprotocol support, integration with cloud-native applications, end-to-end product security, and API-based data platform architecture. Overall, Cisco HX systems deliver the operational requirements for agility, security, scalability, and pay-as-you-grow economics of the cloud — but with the benefits of on-premises infrastructure.
4. Microsoft Azure Stack HCI
Microsoft Azure Stack HCI is a hyperconverged infrastructure operating system that hosts virtualized Windows and Linux workloads and their storage in a hybrid, on-premises environment. It is delivered as an Azure service that enhances the cluster with capabilities such as cloud-based monitoring, virtual machine backups, and site recovery.
Microsoft Azure Stack HCI lets the users manage the cluster with their existing tools, including Windows Admin Center and PowerShell. It can only manage the ML lifecycle host of the Azure Kubernetes Service. Azure Stack HCI combines Azure services, Windows Admin Center, Hyper-V-based compute resources, Storage Spaces Direct-based virtualized storage, software-defined networking-based virtualized networking using network controller (optional), Azure Stack HCI operating system, and validated hardware from an OEM partner.
Customers can choose Azure Stack HCI in branch office and edge, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), SQL Server, trusted enterprise virtualization, Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), disaster recovery for virtualized workloads, and data center consolidation and modernization. There are also additional Azure hybrid services such as Azure Site Recovery, Azure Monitor, Cloud Witness, Azure Backup, Azure Update Management, Azure Network Adapter, and Azure File Sync.
Azure Stack HCI solutions hardware partners are ASUS, Axellio, Blue Chip, DataON, Dell EMC, Fujitsu, HPE, Huawei, Lenovo, NEC, QCT, SecureGUARD, and Supermicro. There are a variety of Microsoft partners working on software as well. The latest version Azure Stack HCI v20H2 provides the ability to use Windows Admin Center to create a hyperconverged cluster that uses Storage Spaces Direct for superior storage price-performance.
5. HPE Nimble Storage
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Nimble Storage is a predictive flash storage technology developed by Nimble Storage.
HPE Nimble product line includes HPE Nimble Storage, Nimble Storage disaggregated hyperconverged infrastructure (dHCI), Adaptive Flash Arrays, All-Flash Arrays, Secondary Flash, and other (InfoSight, Cloud Volumes Block, Cloud Volumes Backup). All the Nimble products run the NimbleOS operating system. This provides various common services, including dynamic flash-based read caching, write-optimization, replication, inline compression, and deduplication.
Built on HPE InfoSight, the dHCI platform enables VM admins to scale storage and compute resources independently of one another and reduces organizations’ IT spending. HPE Nimble Storage dHCI platform leverages all the cloud advantages via HPE GreenLake, delivering VMs and VDI-as-a-service, accelerating time to value, and simplifying IT management. It also has the potential of a hybrid cloud with HPE Cloud Volumes which help to protect data in the cloud. Admins can use an HPE vCenter plugin to manage Nimble Storage dHCI from VMware vCenter.
The most recent version of HPE Nimble Storage dHCI supports HPE Alletra 6000, HPE ProLiant DL325, DL385, DL560, and DL580 servers, and HPE ProLiant servers. HPE markets the Nimble Storage dHCI platform for businesses that support applications with data growth or host mission-critical applications.
Get agile with hyperconverged infrastructure
The use of HCI systems gives a more flexible, agile, and scalable computing framework that makes it simpler to build and manage private clouds, public clouds, and hybrid clouds. Organizations can opt for a fully integrated hardware appliance, or the standalone software can be deployed on standard x86 servers. Business owners can get the full features of hyperconverged technology from both types of solutions, and therefore they should clearly chalk out their internal requirements while exploring an HCI solution.
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