If you’re unfamiliar with Scale Computing, they’re a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) vendor out of Indianapolis that have been around for some time and deliver a solution aimed squarely at the small to mid-size market. They’ve been around since 2008, and launched their HC3 platform in 2012. They have around 1600 customers, and about 6000 units deployed in the field. Justin Warren provides a nice overview here as part of his research for Storage Field Day 5, while Trevor Pott wrote a comprehensive review for El Reg that you can read here. I was fortunate enough to get a briefing from Alan Conboy from Scale Computing and thought it worthy of putting pen to paper, so to speak.
So What is a Scale Computing?
Scale describes the HC3 as a scale-out system. It has the following features:
- 3 or more nodes –fully automated Active/Active architecture;
- Clustered virtualization compute platform with no virtualization licensing (KVM-based, not VMware);
- Protocol-less pooled storage resources eliminate external storage requirements entirely with no SAN or VSA;
- +60% efficiency gains built in to the IO path – Scale made much of this in my briefing, and it certainly looks good on paper;
- Cluster is self healing and self load balancing – the nodes talk directly to each other;
- Scale’s State Machine technology makes the cluster Self-Aware with no need for external management servers – so no out of band management servers. When you’ve done as many vSphere deployments as I have this becomes very appealing;
You can read a bit more about how it all hangs together here. Here’s a simple diagram of the how it looks from a networking perspective. Each node has 4 NICs, with two going to the back-end and two ports for the front-end. You can read up on recommended network switches here.
- 8 to 40 vCores;
- 32 to 512GB VM Memory;
- Quad Network interface ports in 1GbE or 10GbE;
- 4 or 8 spindles in 7.2k, 10k, or 15k RPM and SSD as a tier.
Here’s an overview of the different models, along with list prices in $US. You can check out the specification sheet here.
So What’s New?
Flash. Scale tell me “it’s not being used as a simple cache, but as a proper, fluid tier of storage to meet the needs of a growing and changing SMB to SME market”. There are some neat features that have been built in to the interface. I was able to test these during the briefing with Scale. In a nutshell, there’s a level of granularity that the IT generalist should be pleased with.
- Set different priority for VMs on a per virtual disk basis;
- Change on the fly as needed;
- Makes use of SLC SSD as a storage tier not just a cache; and
- Keep unnecessary workloads off of the SSD tier completely.
Scale is deploying its new HyperCore Enhanced Automated Tiering (HEAT) technology across the HC3 product line and is introducing a flash storage tier as part of its HC2150 and HC4150 appliances. Scale tell me that they are “[a]vailable in 4- or 8-drive units”, and “Scale’s latest offerings include one 400 or 800GB SSD with three NL-SAS HDD in 1-6TB capacities and memory up to 256GB, or two 400 or 800GB SSD with 6 NL-SAS HDD in 1-2TB capacities and up to 512 GB memory respectively. Network connectivity for either system is achieved through two 10GbE SFP+ ports per node”.
It’s also worth noting that the new products can be used to form new clusters, or they can be added to existing HC3 clusters. Existing workloads on those clusters will automatically utilize the new storage tier when the new nodes are added. You can read more on what’s new here.
Further Reading and Feelings
As someone who deals with reasonably complex infrastructure builds as part of my day job, it was refreshing to get a briefing from a company who’s focus is on simplicity for a certain market segment, rather than trying to be the HCI vendor everyone goes to. I was really impressed with the intuitive nature of the interface, the simplicity with which tasks could be achieved, and the thought that’s gone into the architecture. The price, for what it offers, is very competitive as well, particularly in the face of more traditional compute + storage stacks aimed at SMEs. I’m working with Scale to get myself some more stick time in the near future and am looking forward to reporting back with the results.