HCI Hardware Solutions

Posted by Tyler Young, xByte Solutions Architect on Feb 12, 2024

HCI Hardware Solutions

In a previous post,  HyperConverged Infrastructure (HCI) Storage Overview, we covered how HCI differs from traditional storage, cases, and touched on hardware options.

You can build your own HCI solution from scratch by selecting a hardware option and pairing compatible software (or vice versa), or you can opt for a turnkey solution where the hardware and software are already combined and sold as an appliance. Either is a great storage option, which is the better option will depend on your unique business needs.

Turnkey/Appliance Storage Solutions

Dell VxRail:

An HCI solution developed by Dell EMC in partnership with VMware by Broadcom HCI, is an integrated system that combines compute, storage, and networking resources into a solid, software-defined platform. VxRail is the first and only HCI solution that VMware designed with Dell. There is not another VMware + hardware collaboration that exists like VxRail. VxRail specifically leverages VMware’s vSAN (Virtual Storage Area Network) software to provide a highly scalable and efficient hyperconverged infrastructure.

Key features of VxRail:

  • Ease of deployment – VxRail is designed to be easy to deploy, allowing organizations to quickly implement hyperconverged infrastructure without the complexity typically associated with traditional infrastructure setups. It comes as a fully integrated hardware and software solution, reducing the time and effort required for deployment.

  • Scalability – VxRail is built to scale easily. Organizations can start with a small cluster and add nodes as needed to accommodate growing workloads. This modular scalability makes it suitable for businesses of varying sizes, from small enterprises to large data centers.

  • Performance – VxRail leverages the power of VMware by BroadcomvSAN to deliver high-performance storage. By distributing storage across all nodes in the cluster, it provided low-latency access to data and ensures optimal performance for virtualized workloads.

  • Integration with VMware by Broadcom Technologies – As a joint offering from Dell EMC and VMware by Broadcom, VxRail is tightly integrated with VMware’s virtualization technologies. This included vSphere for virtualization, vCenter for management, and vSAN for storage. The integration ensures seamless interoperability and compatibility with the VMware by Broadcom ecosystem.Not to be confused with HCI solutions that are “backed by VMware” (compatible with), VxRail was developed by VMware and Dell collectively. There isn’t a similar VMware + hardware appliance in existence.

  • Management and Monitoring – VxRail includes management tools that simplify the administration of the hyperconverged infrastructure. The system provides centralized management through the vCenter interface, allowing administrators to monitor and control the entire HCI environment from a single console.

  • Reliability and Resilience – VxRail is designed to be highly reliable and resilient. It includes encryption for data at rest and in transit, as well as integration with VMware’s security technologies.

Overall, VxRail offers a turnkey solution for organizations seeking a hyperconverged infrastructure that is easy to deploy, scalable, and well-integrated with virtual technologies.

StarWind HCI Appliance:

Designed to integrate compute, storage, networking, virtualization software, and management into a single HCI platform. StarWind HCI Appliance eliminates common obstacles associated with legacy infrastructure: complicated management and high costs.

Key features of the StarWind HCI Appliance:

  • Software-Defined Storage (SDS) – StarWind relies on a software-defined storage approach, which means that storage functionalities are implemented and managed through software rather than traditional hardware-based storage systems. This provided flexibility and scalability to the storage infrastructure.

  • Virtualization Agnostic – StarWind’s HCI solution is virtualization agnostic, meaning it can work with different hypervisors. This flexibility allows organizations to choose their preferred virtualization platform, such as VMware by Broadcom, Microsoft, or others.

  • Hardware Agnostic – Similar to its virtualization flexibility, StarWind is designed to be hardware-agnostic. This means that organizations have the flexibility to choose their own hardware components, including servers and storage devices, allowing for customization based on specific requirements and preferences.

  • High Availability – StarWindHCI Appliance employs technologies like synchronous mirroring to ensure that data is redundantly stored across multiple nodes, reducing the risk of data loss in the event of a hardware failure.

  • Scalability – Starwind’s HCI solution is designed to scale easily. Organizations can start with a small configuration and then expand by adding more nodes to the cluster as their computing and storage needs grow. This modular scalability allows for a more cost-effective and efficient approach to infrastructure growth.

  • All-Flash and Hybrid Configurations – StarWind supports both all-flash and hybrid configurations, allowing organizations to choose the storage type that best suits their performance and cost requirements.

  • Management and Monitoring – StarWind provides a user-friendly management interface for administrators and monitors your environment proactively preventing errors before they occur rather than treating errors when they arise.

  • Backup & Disaster Recovery – StarWind includes features for backup and disaster recovery, helping organizations protect their data and ensure business continuity in case of unforeseen events.

Overall, the StarWind HCI Appliance tends to be a more affordable appliance with flexible hardware and software options making it accessible to a wide range of organizations, including small and medium-sized businesses.

Build Your Own HCI Solution

vSAN Ready Nodes:

vSAN Ready Nodes are pre-validated hardware configurations designed to support VMware by Broadcom vSAN, which is a key component of VMware's hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solution. vSAN Ready Nodes provide flexibility and choice to organizations by allowing them to choose the hardware that best fits their specific requirements while ensuring compatibility with vSAN software.

Key Features of vSAN Ready Nodes:

  • Hardware Flexibility – With vSAN Ready Nodes, organizations have the flexibility to choose hardware from various server vendors, including Dell EMC, HPE, Lenovo, Cisco, and others. This allows businesses to select the hardware platform that aligns with their preferences, existing infrastructure, and budget constraints.

  • Pre-Validated Configurations – Although organizations have the freedom to choose hardware components, vSAN Ready Nodes are pre-validated configurations. This means that the selected hardware configurations have undergone testing and validation by VMware by Broadcom to ensure compatibility and optimal performance with vSAN software. This pre-validation helps streamline the deployment process and reduces the risk of compatibility issues.

  • Simplified Deployment – vSAN Ready Nodes are designed to simplify the deployment of vSAN-powered HCI solutions. The pre-validated configurations eliminate the need for organizations to individually validate and test different hardware components, speeding up the deployment process and reducing the complexity associated with building a hyper-converged infrastructure.

  • Scalability – Like other HCI solutions, vSAN Ready Nodes are designed to scale easily. Organizations can start with a small number of nodes and then scale out by adding more nodes as their computing and storage requirements grow. This modular approach to scaling allows for seamless expansion of the infrastructure.

  • Integration with VMware by Broadcom Ecosystem – vSAN Ready Nodes are tightly integrated with the broader VMware by Broadcom ecosystem, including VMware by Broadcom vSphere and vCenter. This integration provides a consistent and familiar management interface for administrators, allowing them to manage both virtualized workloads and the underlying HCI infrastructure from a single console.

  • Performance and Efficiency – The combination of vSAN Ready Nodes with VMware by Broadcom vSAN software is designed to deliver high-performance storage for virtualized workloads. The distributed architecture of vSAN optimizes storage efficiency and provides features like deduplication and compression to maximize storage utilization.

  • Support and Maintenance – Organizations deploying vSAN Ready Nodes receive support from both the hardware vendor and VMware by Broadcom. This dual support model ensures that any issues related to hardware or software can be addressed promptly, providing a more robust and reliable solution.

In summary, vSAN Ready Nodes offer a flexible and validated approach to building a hyper-converged infrastructure. They provide organizations with the choice of hardware vendors while ensuring compatibility and performance through pre-validation, making the deployment of vSAN-powered HCI solutions more straightforward and efficient.

Dell PowerFlex:

Formerly known as VxFlex, is an HCI solution developed by Dell Technologies. It is designed to provide a software-defined storage (SDS) platform that converges compute and storage resources into a single, flexible, and scalable architecture. PowerFlex is part of the Dell EMC portfolio and is aimed at providing a highly adaptable and efficient infrastructure for various workloads.

Key features of Dell PowerFlex:

  • Software-Defined Storage – PowerFlex is fundamentally a software-defined storage solution. It abstracts the underlying storage hardware, creating a flexible and scalable pool of storage resources that can be dynamically allocated to virtualized workloads.

  • Scale-Out Architecture – PowerFlex is designed with a scale-out architecture, allowing organizations to start with a small cluster of nodes and seamlessly scale by adding more nodes to meet growing demands. This modular scalability makes it suitable for a variety of deployment sizes and scenarios.

  • High Performance – PowerFlex is engineered to deliver high-performance storage for virtualized workloads. By distributing data across multiple nodes in the cluster, it provides low-latency access to data and can deliver robust performance even in demanding applications.

  • Multi-Hypervisor Support – PowerFlex is hypervisor-agnostic and supports multiple hypervisors, including VMware by Broadcom vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, and KVM. This flexibility enables organizations to choose the virtualization platform that best fits their requirements.

  • Resilience and Availability – PowerFlex includes features such as data mirroring and distributed RAID to ensure data resilience and high availability. In the event of hardware failures, the system is designed to maintain data integrity and availability.

  • Data Efficiency – PowerFlex incorporates data efficiency technologies such as compression and deduplication to optimize storage utilization and reduce the overall storage footprint. This can contribute to cost savings and improved storage efficiency.

  • Integrated Management – PowerFlex provides centralized management through the PowerFlex Manager, allowing administrators to monitor, configure, and manage the entire HCI environment from a single interface. This includes tasks such as provisioning storage, scaling resources, and monitoring performance.

  • Automation and Orchestration – PowerFlex supports automation and orchestration through integrations with tools like VMware by Broadcom vRealize Automation and Ansible. This enables organizations to streamline operational tasks and accelerate deployment processes.

  • Support and Services – Dell EMC provides support and services for PowerFlex, offering assistance with deployment, configuration, and ongoing maintenance. This includes technical support, training, and professional services to help organizations optimize their HCI deployment.

PowerFlex is suitable for a range of use cases, from traditional virtualized workloads to modern, cloud-native applications. Its flexibility, performance, and scalability make it a compelling choice for organizations looking to build a dynamic and adaptable HCI infrastructure.

Dell APEX Cloud Platform for Microsoft Azure (ACP for Azure) :

ACP for Azure (formally known as S2D or Azure Stack HCI for 14G/15G iterations) is a hybrid cloud computing solution from Microsoft that extends the Azure cloud services to an organization's on-premises data center. While ACP for Azure is not a traditional hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solution in the sense of combining compute, storage, and networking in a single appliance, it does provide a converged infrastructure for hybrid cloud scenarios.

Key features of Azure Stack:

  • Hybrid Cloud Extension – ACP for Azure enables organizations to create a consistent and integrated hybrid cloud environment by extending Azure services and capabilities to their on-premises data centers. This allows for a unified experience across on-premises and cloud-based workloads.

  • Azure Services On-Premises – With ACP for Azure, organizations can run a subset of Azure services on their local infrastructure. This includes services such as Azure Virtual Machines, Azure App Service, Azure Storage, and more. Developers can build applications using Azure services and deploy them seamlessly on both Azure and Azure Stack.

  • Consistent Development and Management – ACP for Azure provides a consistent development and management experience across on-premises and cloud environments. This is achieved through the use of Azure Resource Manager templates, Azure PowerShell, and Azure CLI, allowing organizations to deploy, manage, and monitor resources in a unified way.

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Capabilities – ACP for Azure offers IaaS capabilities, allowing organizations to deploy and manage virtual machines, storage, and networking components on their local infrastructure. This is beneficial for scenarios where certain workloads need to run on-premises due to regulatory, latency, or other considerations.

  • Edge and Disconnected Scenarios – ACP for Azure is designed to support edge and disconnected scenarios. This is particularly useful for organizations with remote locations or limited connectivity, allowing them to run Azure services locally.

  • App Service Environment – ACP for Azure includes the App Service Environment (ASE), which allows organizations to run Azure App Service-based applications on their own infrastructure. This is useful for scenarios where certain applications need to run closer to data sources or comply with specific regulatory requirements.

  • Security and Compliance – ACP for Azure is designed with a focus on security and compliance. It allows organizations to maintain control over sensitive data and comply with regulatory requirements by keeping certain workloads on-premises while still taking advantage of cloud capabilities.

  • Integrated System – While ACP for Azure is not a traditional HCI appliance, it often involves integrated systems from hardware partners, providing a pre-configured and validated solution for deploying ACP for Azure.

It's important to note that ACP for Azure comes in different form factors, including Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack HCI, and Azure Stack Edge, each tailored for specific use cases. ACP for Azure HCI, in particular, focuses on providing a hyper-converged infrastructure solution that integrates only with Azure Stack HCI OS and enables organizations to run virtualized workloads on-premises with tight integration with Azure services.

In conclusion, there is no “one-size fits all” when it comes to selecting a storage solution. It is important to consider your unique business needs to determine which option will work best to meet your goals. xByte has certified solutions architects to help you design a custom solution. Contact [email protected] or call 888-929-8348 to start working with xByte on your custom solution.