Cisco Introduces HyperFlex 4.5

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 20.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Cisco presented a sneak preview of HyperFlex 4.5 at Storage Field Day 20 a little while ago. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here. Note that this preview was done some time before the product was officially announced, so there may be a few things that did or didn’t make it into the final product release.

 

Announcing HyperFlex 4.5

4.5: Meat and Potatoes

So what are the main components of the 4.5 announcement?

  • iSCSI Block storage
  • N:1 Edge data replication
  • New edge platforms / SD-WAN
  • HX Application Platform (KVM)
  • Intersight K8s Service
  • Intersight Workload Optimizer

Other Cool Stuff

  • HX Boost Mode – virtual CPU configuration change in HX controller VM, the boost is persistent (scale up).
  • ESXi & VC 7.0, Native VC Plugin, 6.0 is EoS, HX Native HTML5 vCenter Plugin (this has been available since HX 4.0)
  • Secure Boot – protect the hypervisor against bootloader attacks with secure boot anchored in Cisco hardware root of trust
  • Hardened SDS Controller – reduce the attack surface and mitigate against compromised admin credentials

The HX240 Short Depth nodes have been available since HX 4.0, but there’s now a new Edge Option – the HX240 Edge. This is a new 2RU form factor option for HX Edge (2N / 3N / 4N), A-F and hybrid, 1 or 2 sockets, up to 3TB RAM and 175TB capacity, and PCIe slots for dense GPUs.

 

iSCSI in HX 4.5(1a)

[image courtesy of Cisco]

iSCSI Topologies

[image courtesy of Cisco]

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Some of the drama traditionally associated with HCI marketing seems to have died down now, and people have mostly stopped debating what it is or isn’t, and started focusing on what they can get from the architecture over more traditional infrastructure deployments. Hyperconverged has always had a good story when it comes to compute and storage, but the networking piece has proven problematic in the field. Sure, there have been attempts at making software-defined networking more effective, but some of these efforts have run into trouble when they’ve hit the northbound switches.

When I think of Cisco HyperFlex I think of it as the little HCI solution that could. It doesn’t dominate the industry conversation like some of the other vendors, but it’s certainly had an impact, in much the same way UCS has. I’ve been a big fan of Springpath for some time, and HyperFlex has taken a solid foundation and turned it into something even more versatile and fully featured. I think the key thing to remember with HyperFlex is that it’s a networking company selling this stuff – a networking company that knows what’s up when it comes to connecting all kinds of infrastructure together.

The addition of iSCSI keeps the block storage crowd happy, and the new edge form-factor will have appeal for customers trying to squeeze these boxes into places they probably shouldn’t be going. I’m looking forward to seeing more HyperFlex from Cisco over the next 12 months, as I think it finally has a really good story to tell, particularly when it comes to integration with other Cisco bits and pieces.

Random Short Take #45

Welcome to Random Short Take #45. The number 45 has taken a bit of a beating in terms of popularity in recent years, but a few pretty solid players have nonetheless worn 45 in the NBA, including MJ and The Rifleman. My favourite from this list is A.C. Green (“slam so hard, break your TV screen“). So let’s get random.

Random Short Take #41

Welcome to Random Short Take #41. A few players have worn 41 in the NBA, but it’s hard to go past Dirk Nowitzki for a quality big man with a sweet, sweet jumpshot. So let’s get random.

  • There have been a lot of articles written by folks about various home office setups since COVID-19 became a thing, but this one by Jason Benedicic deserves a special mention. I bought a new desk and decluttered a fair bit of my setup, but it wasn’t on this level.
  • Speaking of COVID-19, there’s a hunger for new TV content as people across the world find themselves confined to their homes. The Ringer published an interesting article on the challenges of diving in to the archives to dig up and broadcast some television gold.
  • Backblaze made the news a while ago when they announced S3 compatibility, and this blog post covers how you can move from AWS S3 to Backblaze. And check out the offer to cover your data transfer costs too.
  • Zerto has had a bigger cloud presence with 7.5 and 8.0, and Oracle Public Cloud is now a partner too.
  • Speaking of cloud, Leaseweb Global recently announced the launch of its Leaseweb Cloud Connect product offering. You can read the press release here.
  • One of my favourite bands is The Mark Of Cain. It’s the 25th anniversary of the Ill At Ease album (the ultimate gym or breakup album – you choose), and the band has started publishing articles detailing the background info on the recording process. It’s fascinating stuff, and you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
  • The nice folks over at Scale Computing have been doing some stuff with various healthcare organisations lately. You can read more about that here. I’m hoping to check in with Scale Computing in the near future when I’ve got a moment. I’m looking forward to hearing about what else they’ve been up to.
  • Ray recently attended Cloud Field Day 8, and the presentation from Igneous prompted this article.

Random Short Take #38

Welcome to Random Short Take #38. Not a huge amount of players have worn 38 in the NBA, and I’m not going to pretend I was ever a Kwame Brown fan. Although it did seem like he had a tough time of it. Anyway let’s get random.

  • Ransomware is the new hotness. Or, rather, protecting storage systems from ransomware is the new hotness. My man Chin-Fah had a writeup on that here. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when you’ll run into a problem. It’s been interesting to see the various approaches being taken by the storage vendors and the data protection companies.
  • Applications for the vExpert program intake for the second half of 2020 are open, but closing soon. It’s a fantastic program to be a part of, so if you think you’ve got the goods, you can apply here. I also recommend this article from Christopher on his experiences.
  • This was a great article from Alastair on some of the differences between networking with AWS and VMC on AWS. As someone who works for a VMware Cloud Provider, I can confirm that NSX (T or V, I don’t care) has a whole slew of capabilities and whole slew of integration challenges.
  • Are you Zoomed out? I am. Even when you think the problem can’t be the network, it might just be the network (I hope my friends in networking appreciate that it’s not always the storage). John Nicholson posted a typically comprehensive overview of how your bandwidth might be one of the things keeping you from demonstrating excellent radio voice on those seemingly endless meetings you’re doing at the moment. It could also be that you’re using crap audio devices too, but I think John’s going to cover that in the future.
  • Scale Computing has a good story to tell about what it’s been doing with a large school district in the U.S. Read more about that here.
  • This is one of those promotions aimed at my friends in Northern America more than folks based where I am, but I’m always happy to talk about deals on data protection. StorCentric has launched its “Retrospect Dads & Grads Promotion” offering a free 90-Day subscription license for every Retrospect Backup product. You can read more about that here.
  • Pure//Accelerate Online was this week, and Max did a nice write-up on Pure Storage File Services over at Gestalt IT.
  • Rancher Labs recently announced the general availability of Longhorn (a cloud-native container storage solution). I’m looking forward to digging in to this a bit more over the next little while.

 

 

Random Short Take #36

Welcome to Random Short Take #36. Not a huge amount of players have worn 36 in the NBA, but Shaq did (at the end of his career), and Marcus Smart does. This one, though, goes out to one of my favourite players from the modern era, Rasheed Wallace. It seems like Boston is the common thread here. Might have something to do with those hall of fame players wearing numbers in the low 30s. Or it might be entirely unrelated.

  • Scale Computing recently announced its all-NVMe HC3250DF as a new appliance targeting core data centre and edge computing use cases. It offers higher performance storage, networking and processing. You can read the press release here.
  • Dell EMC PowerStore has been announced. Chris Mellor covered the announcement here. I haven’t had time to dig into this yet, but I’m keen to learn more. Chris Evans also wrote about it here.
  • Rubrik Andes 5.2 was recently announced. You can read a wrap-up from Mellor here.
  • StorCentric’s Nexsan recently announced the E-Series 32F Storage Platform. You can read the press release here.
  • In what can only be considered excellent news, Preston de Guise has announced the availability of the second edition of his book, “Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability”. It will be available in a variety of formats, with the ebook format already being out. I bought the first edition a few times to give as a gift, and I’m looking forward to giving away a few copies of this one too.
  • Backblaze B2 has been huge for the company, and Backblaze B2 with S3-compatible API access is even huger. Read more about that here. Speaking of Backblaze, it just released its hard dive stats for Q1, 2020. You can read more on that here.
  • Hal recently upgraded his NUC-based home lab to vSphere 7. You can read more about the process here.
  • Jon recently posted an article on a new upgrade command available in OneFS. If you’re into Isilon, you might just be into this.

Random Short Take #33

Welcome to Random Short Take #33. Some terrific players have worn 33 in the NBA, including Keith Closs and Stephon Marbury. This one, though, goes out to the “hick from French Lick” Larry Joe Bird. You might see the frequency of these posts ramp up a bit over the next little while. Because everything feels a little random at the moment.

  • I recently wrote about what Scale Computing has been up to with Leostream. It’s also done a bit with Acronis in the past, and it recently announced it’s now offering Acronis Cloud Storage. You can read more on that here.
  • The good folks at Druva are offering 6 months of free subscription for Office 365 and Endpoint protection (up to 300 seats) to help businesses adjust to these modern ways of working. You can find out more about that here.
  • Speaking of cloud backup, Backblaze recently surpassed the exabyte mark in terms of stored customer data.
  • I’ve been wanting to write about Panzura for a while, and I’ve been terribly slack. It’s enjoying some amount of momentum at the moment though, and is reporting revenue growth that looks the goods. Speaking of Panzura, if you haven’t heard of its Vizion.AI offshoot – it’s well worth checking out.
  • Zerto recently announced Zerto 8. Lots of cool features have been made available, including support for VMware on Google Cloud, and improved VMware integration.
  • There’s a metric shedload of “how best to work from home” posts doing the rounds at the moment. I found this one from Russ White to be both comprehensive and readable. That’s not as frequent a combination as you might expect.
  • World Backup Day was yesterday. I’ll be writing more on that this week, but in the meantime this article from Anthony Spiteri on data displacement was pretty interesting.
  • Speaking of backup and Veeam things, this article on installing Veeam PN from Andre Atkinson was very useful.

And that’s it for now. Stay safe folks.

 

 

Scale Computing and Leostream – Is It Finally VDI’s Year?

Scale Computing announced a partnership with Leostream a little while ago. With the global pandemic drastically changing the way a large amount of organisations are working, it seemed like a good time to talk to Alan Conboy about how this all worked from a Scale Computing and Leostream perspective.

 

Easy As 1, 2

Getting started with Leostream is surprisingly simple. To start with, you’ll need to deploy a Gateway and a Broker VM. These are CentOS machines (if you’re a Scale Computing customer you can get likely some minimally configured, pre-packaged qcow appliances from Alan). You’ll need to punch a hole through your firewall for SSL traffic, and run a couple of simple commands on the VMs, but that’s it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The way it works is that Leostream has a small agent that you can deploy across the PCs in your fleet. When users hit the gateway they can be directed to their own (physical) desktop inside the organisation. They can then access their desktops remotely (using RDP, SSH, or VNC) over any browser that supports SSL and HTML5. So, rather than having to go out and grab a bunch of laptops, setup a VPN (or scale it out), and have a desktop image ready to go (along with the prerequisite VDI resources hosted somewhere), you can have your remote workforce working remotely from day 1. It comes with a Windows, Java, and Linux agent, so if you have users running macOS or Linux they can still come to the party.

I know I’ve done a bad job of describing the solution, so I recommend you check out this blog post instead.

 

Thoughts

I’m not at all passionate about VDI and End User Computing in the same way some people I know are. I always thought it was a neat solution that was frequently poorly executed and oftentimes cost a lot of money. But it’s a weird time for the world and, sadly, it might be something like a global pandemic that finally means that VDI gets its due as a useful solution for remote workers. I’d also like to point out that this is just a part of what Leostream can do. If you’re after something outside of the Scale Computing alliance – they can probably help you out.

I’ve spoken to Alan and the Scale Computing team about Leostream a few times now, and I really do like the idea of being able to bring users back into the network, rather than extending the network out to your users. You don’t have to go crazy acquiring a bunch of laptops or mobile devices for traditionally desk-bound users and re-imaging said laptops for those users. You don’t need to spend a tonne of cash on extra VPN connectivity or compute to support a bunch of new “desktop” VMs. Instead, in a fairly short amount of time, you can get users working the way they always have, with a minimum of fuss. This is exactly the kind of approach that I’ve come to expect from Scale Computing – keep it simple, easy to deploy, cost-conscious, and functional.

As I said before – VDI solutions don’t really excite me. But I do appreciate the flexibility they can offer in terms of the ability to access corporate workloads from non-traditional locales. This solution takes it a step further, and does a great job of delivering what could be a complicated solution in a simple and functional fashion. This is the kind of thing we need more of at the moment.

Random Short Take #31

Welcome to Random Short Take #31. Lot of good players have worn 31 in the NBA. You’d think I’d call this the Reggie edition (and I appreciate him more after watching Winning Time), but this one belongs to Brent Barry. This may be related to some recency bias I have, based on the fact that Brent is a commentator in NBA 2K19, but I digress …

  • Late last year I wrote about Scale Computing’s big bet on a small form factor. Scale Computing recently announced that Jerry’s Foods is using the HE150 solution for in-store computing.
  • I find Plex to be a pretty rock solid application experience, and most of the problems I’ve had with it have been client-related. I recently had a problem with a server update that borked my installation though, and had to roll back. Here’s the quick and dirty way to do that on macOS.
  • Here’s are 7 contentious thoughts on data protection from Preston. I think there are some great ideas here and I recommend taking the time to read this article.
  • I recently had the chance to speak with Michael Jack from Datadobi about the company’s announcement about its new DIY Starter Pack for NAS migrations. Whilst it seems that the professional services market for NAS migrations has diminished over the last few years, there’s still plenty of data out there that needs to be moved from on box to another. Robocopy and rsync aren’t always the best option when you need to move this much data around.
  • There are a bunch of things that people need to learn to do operations well. A lot of them are learnt the hard way. This is a great list from Jan Schaumann.
  • Analyst firms are sometimes misunderstood. My friend Enrico Signoretti has been working at GigaOm for a little while now, and I really enjoyed this article on the thinking behind the GigaOm Radar.
  • Nexsan recently announced some enhancements to its “BEAST” storage platforms. You can read more on that here.
  • Alastair isn’t just a great writer and moustache aficionado, he’s also a trainer across a number of IT disciplines, including AWS. He recently posted this useful article on what AWS newcomers can expect when it comes to managing EC2 instances.

Dell EMC PowerOne – Not V(x)block 2.0

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 19.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Dell EMC recently presented at Storage Field Day 19. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Not VxBlock 2.0?

Dell EMC describes PowerOne as “all-in-one autonomous infrastructure”. It’s converged infrastructure, meaning your storage, compute, and networking are all built into the rack. It’s a transportation-tested package and fully assembled when it ships. When it arrives, you can plug it in, fire up the API, and be up and going “within a few hours”.

Trey Layton is no stranger to Vblock / VxBlock, and he was very clear with the delegates that PowerOne is not replacing VxBlock. After all, VxBlock lets them sell Dell EMC external storage into Cisco UCS customers.

 

So What Is It Then?

It’s a rack or racks full of gear. All of which is now Dell EMC gear. And it’s highly automated and has some proper management around it too.

[image courtesy of Dell EMC]

So what’s in those racks?

  • PowerMax Storage – World’s “fastest” storage array
  • PowerEdge MX – industry leading compute
  • PowerSwitch – Declarative system fabric
  • PowerOne Controller – API-powered automation engine

PowerMax Storage

  • Zero-touch SAN config
  • Discovery / inventory of storage resources
  • Dynamically create storage volumes for clusters
  • Intelligent load balancing

PowerEdge MX Compute

  • Dynamically provision compute resources into clusters
  • Automated chassis expansion
  • Telemetry aggregation
  • Kinetic infrastructure

System Fabrics

  • Switches are 32Gbps
  • 98% reduction in network configuration steps
  • System fabric visibility and lifecycle management
  • Intent-based automated deployment and provision
  • PowerSwitch open networking

PowerOne Controller

  • Highly automates 1000s of tasks
  • Powered by Kubernetes and Ansible
  • Delivers next-gen autonomous outcomes via robust API capabilities

From a scalability perspective, you can go to 275 nodes in a pod, and you can look after up to 32 pods (I think). The technical specifications are here.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Converged infrastructure has always been an interesting architectural choice for the enterprise. When VCE first came into being 10+ years ago via Acadia, delivering consistent infrastructure experiences in the average enterprise was a time-consuming endeavour and not a lot of fun. It was also hard to do well. VCE changed a lot of that with Vblock, but you paid a premium. The reason you paid that premium was that VCE did a pretty decent job of putting together an architecture that was reliable and, more importantly, supportable by the vendor. It wasn’t just the IP behind this that made it successful though, it was the effort put into logistics and testing. And yes, a lot of that was built on the strength of spreadsheets and the blood, sweat and tears of the deployment engineers out in the field.

PowerOne feels like a very different beast in this regard. Dell EMC took us through a demo of the “unboxing” experience, and talked extensively about the lifecycle of the product. They also demonstrated many of the automation features included in the solution that weren’t always there with Vblock. I’ve been responsible for Vblock environments over the years, and a lot of the lifecycle management activities were very thoroughly documented, and extremely manual. PowerOne, on the other hand, doesn’t look like it relies extensively on documentation and spreadsheets to be managed effectively. But maybe that’s just because Trey and the team were able to demonstrate things so effectively.

So why would the average enterprise get tangled up in converged infrastructure nowadays? What with all the kids and their HCI solutions, and the public cloud, and the plethora of easy to consume infrastructure solutions available via competitive consumption models? Well, some enterprises don’t like relying on people within the organisation to deliver solutions for mission critical applications. These enterprises would rather leave that type of outcome in the hands of one trusted vendor. But they might still want that outcome to be hosted on-premises. Think of big financial institutions, and various government agencies looking after very important things. These are the kinds of customers that PowerOne is well suited to.

That doesn’t mean that what Dell EMC is doing with PowerOne isn’t innovative. In fact I think what they’ve managed to do with converged infrastructure is very innovative, within the confines of converged infrastructure. This type of approach isn’t for everyone though. There’ll always be organisations that can do it faster and cheaper themselves, but they may or may not have as much at stake as some of the other guys. I’m curious to see how much uptake this particular solution gets in the market, particularly in environments where HCI and public cloud adoption is on the rise. It strikes me that Dell EMC has turned a corner in terms of system integration too, as the out of the box experience looks really well thought out compared to some of its previous attempts at integration.

Random Short Take #29

Welcome to Random Short Take #29. You’d think 29 would be a hard number to line up with basketball players, but it turns out that Marcus Camby wore it one year when he played for Houston. It was at the tail-end of his career, but still. Anyhoo …

  • I love a good story about rage-quitting projects, and this one is right up there. I’ve often wondered what it must be like to work on open source projects and dealing with the craziness that is the community.
  • I haven’t worked on a Scalar library in over a decade, but Quantum is still developing them. There’s an interesting story here in terms of protecting your protection data using air gaps. I feel like this is already being handled a different way by the next-generation data protection companies, but when all you have is a hammer. And the cost per GB is still pretty good with tape.
  • I always enjoy Keith’s ability to take common problems and look at them with a fresh perspective. I’m interested to see just how far he goes down the rabbit hole with this DC project.
  • Backblaze frequently comes up with useful articles for both enterprise punters and home users alike. This article on downloading your social media presence is no exception. The processes are pretty straightforward to follow, and I think it’s a handy exercise to undertake every now and then.
  • The home office is the new home lab. Or, perhaps, as we work anywhere now, it’s important to consider setting up a space in your home that actually functions as a workspace. This article from Andrew Miller covers some of the key considerations.
  • This article from John Troyer about writing was fantastic. Just read it.
  • Scale Computing was really busy last year. How busy? Busy enough to pump out a press release that you can check out here. The company also has a snazzy new website and logo that you should check out.
  • Veeam v10 is coming “very soon”. You can register here to find out more. I’m keen to put this through its paces.