Converged Infrastructure and the Small Enterprise

"Converged infrastructure" was all the rage this year at VMworld 2012. Booths were packed. Outside of the conference halls and classroom sessions it was all I heard about.

I, for one, welcome our robotic overlords unified compute and storage data centers.

I’ve written a couple articles about specific technology companies that made a lot of noise at VMworld this year. The articles I’m referring to are about Scale Computing’s HC3 and Nutanix. They are by no means the only companies playing in this space (see SimpliVity), but they are the two that I did have the most interaction with and the products I became familiar with. Each vendor offers something unique in the converged computing and storage space to tackle a problem that seems to be ever growing, overcomplicated management and cost.


Scale approaches it from the low price point angle, integrating a virtualization environment into their already tried and true storage platform. Utilizing the open source KVM hypervisor, cheap disks, a simple polished management interface, and a brilliant file system to back it all up, they’ve accomplished exactly what branch offices and small user environments need for servers, storage, and even VDI. Theirs is a solution that _will<_ disrupt the VMware ecosystem.


Nutanix on the other hand takes VMware, not exactly inexpensive to own or manage, and simplifies the entire backend. The policy management is handled by your VMware environment but the heavy lifting is done by Nutanix code running in the background. This removes the needed administration overhead of storage, HA, and redundancy management. It isn’t a cheap solution, but the price is definitely easier to swallow than something along the lines of a FlexPod or vBlock install.

My Take
It’s not hard to see the draw for SME customers. Low management overhead, easy to deploy, and scalability make it ideal for any IT department that is understaffed and overworked. This makes the idea of a chargeback model work really well also. There is an easy to calculate dollar value you can assign to each resource because you buy the compute and storage in parallel. I hope what we’ve seen from Scale, Nutanix, and the rest is really only the beginning.

I’d like to say that although it may not seem it from my two referenced articles, both vendors solutions were fantastic. Coming from an environment like mine, I can definitely see the advantages of both and love the fact that Scale is using KVM. I’m a big fan of open source and have used/played with various hypervisors/virtualization methods over the years. UML, KVM, Xen, Hyper-V, VMware, MS Virtual Server, and even a bit of BSD jails mixed in, have all been installed on a computer of mine at one point. The advantage that Nutanix has (in my unique situation) is that we handle large volumes of video data for editing, streaming, and everything in between. The inclusion of FusionIO in their product gives me an ideal storage environment that I can grow out as needed and speed up those processes. I have no doubt that I will eventually have both products on campus soon enough, each serving a different purpose. Also, I wrote the Scale article in the midst of VMworld, a fast paced week with many late nights. With the Nutanix article, I had some more time to let everything sink in before writing it.

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