Storage in the Front, Compute in the Back

Storage in the front. Compute in the Back. Not a reference to our mullet wearing friends of the 80’s, but a simple truth about the new VxRail appliances announced today by VCE and VMware. What does this look like? How about 112 Cores worth of compute, 76tb of raw flash, layer on dedupe and compression data services and then crunch all of this down into in just 2 rack units. Scale VxRail to 16 appliances in a cluster and you can support up 3200 VMs in a single rack with a time investment of just a few hours to get it deployed.

Let’s look under the covers a bit at the hardware. The system is built on the Quanta hardware platform and includes four fully redundant nodes in the 2U chassis mentioned above. Hyperconvergence by definition is the integration of multiple components into a single platform. So for VxRail this means Compute, Memory, Storage, and Networking. VxRail will be delivered in appliances that are named based on the number of CPU cores delivered 6, 12, 16, 20, 24, or 28 cores become the 60, 120, 160, 200, 240, or 280. Remember that core count is PER NODE, so in an fully populated (we’ll come back to this) appliance, you have between 24 and 112 cores available to your vSphere environment. From a memory perspective RAM can be configured in sizes ranging from 64gb, 128gb, 192gb, 256gb, or 512gb per node. Again, PER NODE, so a full appliance provides between 256gb and 2tb of RAM for your vSphere environment. It’s important to note that these appliances will be delivered in 2 versions, either Hybrid of All Flash. Because of this the storage options will differ based on which model you are using. In the hybrid appliance you can configure 3.6tb, 4.8tb, 6tb, 8tb, 10tb RAW capacity. In the all flash array, you have the choices of 7.6tb, 11.4tb, 15.2tb, 19tb. Remember that this is RAW and doesn’t take into account the data reduction that erasure coding provides. From a connectivity perspective you have to 10 gig physical connector options of either RJ45 or SFP+. Pretty simple, right! That’s the idea. A few other notes, this system scales from 1-16 appliances or 200 – 3200 VMs. Remember earlier when I mentioned fully populated? That’s because VxRail will also scale at the node level. That’s right, after I add my first appliance, I can simply add a second appliance with only a single node. You can also mix and match appliances in a cluster. The caveat here is that they must be in the same family meaning Hybrid or All Flash. Last comment since this is the first day that the VxRail appliance is available to order and there are some features mentioned above that won’t be available right way. The all flash models won’t ship until Q2 for example, so be sure you are speaking with your favorite EMC partner to understand what is and what isn’t available at the time you decide to invest.

So once you get this 90 pound beast racked and cabled up, it’s time to do the fun stuff and get the appliance up and running. It starts by running through the wizards which will give you a 4 node fully functional system in about 15 minutes. (assuming you have pre-collected the answers to the questions) The wizard has sections for Management, vMotion, vSAN, VM Networks, Solutions, and then a final Validation. Once you have completed all of the steps in the wizard the system automates a full check of both the appliance and the environment to check for things like IP address conflicts. As you add additional appliances the system will auto-detect the new appliance making the additional configuration much easier. Not only does the system automate the initial configuration, but application deployment like Sugar CRM or WordPress is built into the system making for single click install. The VxRail will plug directly into your vSphere environment allowing native management from the same console your admins are accustomed to. Another novel approach which was something born from the previous EMC VSpexBlue appliance is the marketplace. This allows EMC and other 3rd party vendors to provide additional functionality to your environment in the same simple matter that you deployed the appliance from the beginning. The interface is HTML5 and mobile optimization is coming and I mentioned VSpexBlue earlier for a reason. That’s because existing customers have an upgrade path built in.

My final takeaway is simple. This package is complete, and the pricing is inline with what the market and my clients have been asking for. By bringing the advanced software features into an easy to install and operate platform, the way you build a modern data center has changed.

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