Since version 3.0.8 SimpliVity launched their Upgrade Manager to automate upgrade procedure of the SimpliVity OmniStack software. In previous versions this was a manual process that could take some time. On a high level, the new process consists of 5 steps:
Stage upgrade files
Upgrade Arbiter and vCenter WebClient Plug-in
Unfortunately the SimpliVity Upgrade Manager doesn’t include the VMware updates. This must be done after upgrading the SimpliVity software, by hand or using the VMware Update Manager.
In this blog I walk you through the upgrade of a one node SimpliVity cluster. I will upgrade the host from version 3.5.3 build 265 to version 3.6.2 Update 1 . To check the supported upgrade path, you can refer to the Interoperability guide on the support site.
Today, April 5, 2016, SimpliVity announced new capabilities of the OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform. The announcement consists of three subjects:
This new version is the first major update of this year and I hope there will come more updates. The latest major release, version 3.0, was in the early second half of 2015. SimpliVity say this new version will deliver new capabilities optimized for large, mission-critical and global enterprise deployments. Besides improvements to the code, this release will add three new main capabilities to the OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform.
The first improvement in the OmniStack software is the ability to create multi-node stretched clusters. In the current versions it is only possible to create a stretched cluster with a total of 2 nodes divided over two sites. This limit is now increased and supported by default. With a stretched cluster it will be possible to achieve a RPO of zero and a RTO of seconds.
Intelligent Workload Optimizer
The second new capability is the Intelligent Workload Optimizer. SimpliVity will use a multi-dimensional approach to balance the workload over the platform. The balancing will be based on CPU, Memory, I/O performance and Data Location. This will result in less data migrations and a greater virtual machine improvement.
And the last new capability in the OmniStack Software is the REST API. In version 3.5 it will be possible to use the REST API to manage the SimpliVity data virtualization platform. It was already possible to integrate with VMware vRealize Automation but now it will be a lot easier to integrate with third-party management portals and applications.
OmniView Predictive Insight tool is the second part of the announcement. OmniView is a web-based tool that gives custom visualization of an entire SimpliVity deployment. It can give predictive analytics and trends within a SimpliVity environment and helps to plan future grow. The tool can also help to investigate and troubleshoot issues within the environment. OmniView will be available for Mission-Critical-level support customers and approved partners.
The last part of the announcement is support for Hyper-V. The OmniStack Data Virtualization platform will be extended to this platform to give customers more choice. SimpliVity will support mixed and dedicated Hyper-V environments with the release of Windows Server 2016. Planning and timing about the availability is aligned to the release of Microsoft Windows Server 2016.
The announcement is a great step in the right direction and I think just-in-time. For me the most important part of the announcement is the announcement of version 3.5 and more specifically the support for stretched clusters. In more and more large European organizations stretched cluster support is a requirement nowadays and SimpliVity will now have the ability to support this. Also the REST API will help to integrate SimpliVity in an existing ecosystem of a customer.
The OmniView Predictive Insight tool will give customers insight to their SimpliVity environment and provide predictive analytics and forecasts. In the current 3.0 version it was only possible to get some statistics about the storage but now you will have a self-learning system which customers can use to improve their environment.
The Hyper-V support announcement is also a long-awaited one. Now we only have to wait till Microsoft will release Windows Server 2016 to use this feature.
After teasing the market with a photo containing three servers, the word Hyper and some blank puzzle pieces, Cisco announced their own Hyper-converged Solution: Cisco HyperFlex. This solution is an extension of Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). Until now the UCS platform portfolio did not contain a native Cisco storage solution. Finally Cisco entered the highly competitive Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) market with HyperFlex.
The Cisco HyperFlex solution combines compute, storage and the network in one appliance. Cisco says the solution is unique in three ways: flexible scaling, continuous data optimization and an integrated network. All other HCI vendors do Hyper-converged with compute, storage and networking, but none of these have a complete integrated network solution. As expected of a former networking only company, Cisco also integrated the network.
The platform is built on existing UCS components and a new storage component. The servers used in the solution are based on the existing Cisco UCS product line. Networking is based on the Cisco UCS Fabric interconnects. The new storage component in Cisco’s platform is called the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform, which is based on Springpath technology.
Springpath HALO and Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform
Springpath was founded in 2012 and Cisco co-invested the start-up. Springpath has developed its own data platform using HALO (Hardware Agnostic Log-structured Object) architecture. The HALO architecture offers a flexible platform with data distribution, caching, persistence and optimization. Cisco has re-branded this to the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform.
All data on the Cisco HX Data platform is distributed over the cluster. Data optimization takes place by using inline de-duplication and compression. Cisco indicates most customers should reach 20-30% capacity reduction with de-duplication and another 30-50% with compression without any performance impact.
VMware and Cisco HyperFlex
First the HyperFlex solution will only be available with the VMware hypervisor using NFS as storage protocol. A Data Platform Controller for communication with the physical hardware will be used for the HyperFlex platform. This Data Platform Controller requires a dedicated number of processor cores and dedicated amount of memory. The controller integrates the HX Data Platform with the use of two preinstalled VMware ESXi vSphere Installation Bundles (VIBs): IO Visor and VAAI. IO Visor provides a NFS mount point and VAAI offloads file system operations.
The HyperFlex storage is managed with a vCenter plug-in. There are currently no details available about the layout and functionality of this plug-in. We expect the plugin will be the same as Springpath with Cisco branding.
The physical server and network is managed like any other Cisco UCS server. Each server will be connected to the Fabric Interconnect and managed from the UCS manager interface.
Cisco HyperFlex range
The HyperFlex platform is available in three different models, an 1U and 2U rack based server and a combination of rack servers with blade servers. The first model is for a small footprint, the 2U model is for maximal capacity and the last option is for maximal capacity and high compute.
All configurations must be ordered with a minimum of four servers. As far as we know at this stage the maximum number of servers in a HyperFlex cluster is eight. Each server will be delivered with VMware pre-installed.
The hardware configuration of the HyperFlex nodes is not fixed. You can choose your type of processor, amount of memory and the amount of disks. On the Cisco Build & Price website all available configuration options can be found. You can always scale your cluster by adding storage and/or compute nodes.
Cisco has an interesting licensing model for the HyperFlex HX Data Platform. The HX Data Platform will be licensed on a per year basis. In the configuration tool by default a server is configured with a license for one year. This licensing model deviates from other HCI vendors who base their license model on raw or used TB’s, or use a perpetual license.
Cisco is a new and interesting player in the rapidly growing Hyper-converged market. The technology used provides some nice features, capabilities and an interesting licensing model. Time will tell if the product will be successful and what the roadmap will bring for the future. But at first sight it looks like a good alternative for the leading Hyper-converged solutions.