"Hyperconverged" infrastructure with SimpliVity

With the recent acqusition of the TCC products GmbH into the TechniData IT Service Group we now have a new player for hyperconverged infrastructures (aka datacenter-in-a-box) in our portfolio. The name is SimpliVity. Maybe you've already heard about it but they are quite new on the market especially in the DACH region and so TCC is one of the first resellers of these systems here in Germany.

SimpliVity combines server virtualization software, networking and storage within a single system making it extremly simple to build up a complete virtualization infrastructure. For now this sounds quite common as there are other vendors already on the market that offer the same at first look but SimpliVity is a litte bit different. To understand the difference we have to take a closer look at their products. First there are three different models of the SimpliVity OmniCube. Starting with the CN-2000 at the lower end, the CN-3000 is the most common system in the middle class and at the high-end there is the CN-5000 series. You can get a detailed comparision of the three classes here

All models are based on standard Dell server hardware and consist of one or more CPUs (8-24 cores), RAM (128GB up to 768GB), internal SSDs and SATA harddisks and a special accelerator card for the inline deduplication and compression. Looking at the LAN side, there are 2x1GbE and 2x 10GbE cards always installed and you can upgrade with additional 2x1GbE and 2x10GbE (only available for the CN3000 and 5000 systems). The first two 10GbE ports are always reserved for the storage traffic. We will see this in more detail in just a few moments.

Looking at the storage side you see the SSDs and SATA disks. SimpliVity gets all of it's performance from using the SSDs as Cache and the SATA disks for the data. In combination with the accelerator card and the deduplication you can store up to 30TB of deduplicated data on each node.

When I say "each node" you can easily see how OmniCube scales out. You can simply add more nodes into a "farm" called federation. With every new node you add CPU, RAM, network and storage. On the storage side, data is mirrored between the nodes to make it high available. This is done via the 10GbE network cards as already mentioned before. This is the reason why you have to use 10GbE to make the mirror links not the bottleneck. OmniCube uses NFS as protocol for all storage traffic.

For management and control of the whole federation there is an OmbniCube VM on each node. This VM controls all the traffic and uses RAM as additional cache. It seamlessly integrates into vCenter and gives you a complete view of all OmniCube-related information and settings from within a single view. Currently only VMware is supported as hypervisor but Hyper-V integration is on the roadmap.

Since most of the above information can also be found on the SimpliVity homepage, here are some information that you won't easily get but are very critical if you plan to use this product in your environment:

 

  • Each OmniCube node runs one instance of the management VM. This VM reserves RAM for it's operations. This RAM reservation ranges from 40 up to 90GB depending on the hardware model you use. E.g. for the CN-2000 system, ~45GB of RAM will be reserved only for that VM. This will drill down you usable RAM on each node to ~60-70GB. This memory reservation is not modifyable so you have to keep that in mind.
  • The storage of each node will export it's storage via NFS. For a simple two node installation you can use direct-attached cables. If you want to scale out you have to use redundant 10GbE switches.
  • On each node you have to use VMware vSphere 5.1 (5.5 is not yet supported) to virtualize the hardware and startup the OmniCube VM.
  • VMware licensing on the OmniCube nodes depends on the features you want to use for the other VMs that run on these nodes. SimpliVity doesn't need any special version of vSphere to work, they can even use the free ESXi but this is not recommended as you can't use vCenter with ESXi free. So treat the OmniCubes exactly as you would do with "standard" vSphere hosts and decide which edition of vSphere fits your needs.
  • The main focus of the OmniCubes is to provide rock-solid, fast and efficient storage. Running VMs on the nodes itself is a nice add-on but main focus is on storage. So if you need to add more virtualization ressources you can either add more OmniCube nodes or you can also add "normal" vSphere hosts and attach them via 10GbE to your NFS network. The OmniCubes can also export their optimized storage transparent to other "non-OmniCube" vSphere hosts. This is quite cool because this way you can either scale out virtualization performance through adding vSphere hosts or scale out primary storage performance by adding OmniCube nodes.
  • Network connectivity is limited especially with the CN-2000 nodes. Here you have only 2x1GbE and this is not extendable. If you have to use more interfaces for LAN-traffic either use the CN-3000 or 5000 with additional network cards or use VLAN trunks (or both, of course)
  • Since the hardware is from Dell, Dell will also take care about any hardware replacements except the accelerator card. This will ship directly from SimpliVity as this is their own property and will not be handled by Dell. Central point of contact for all support issues is SimpliVity, they will coordinate all hardware support issues with Dell, so you will never be dreictly in touch with Dell.

 

This overview should give you some information about the way OmniCubes work and what you have to consider. This overview is not complete but I will add more information on this new and heavily interesting product soon. For example, OmniCubes include very efficient snapshot handling and backup/replication features that aren' mentioned at all in this article. 

Only one additional note: we have some of the 3000er models in our datacenter running and are very impressed by the performance and deduplication ratios. So if you suffer poor SAN performance or steadily raising storage capacity requirements and think about (or already use) server virtualization, OmniCube is a perfect way to go.  

 

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