Axellio Announces FX-WSSD

 

Axellio (a division of X-IO Technologies) recently announced their new FX-WSSD appliance based on Windows Server 2019. I had the opportunity to speak to Bill Miller (CEO) and Barry Martin (Product Manager for the HCI WSSD product) and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

What Is It?

Axellio recently announced the new FabricXpress Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) | Windows Server Software-Defined Datacenter (known as FX-WSSD to its friends). It’s built on the Axellio Edge FX-1000 platform and comes licensed with Windows Server Datacenter Edition 2019 and runs Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct. You can manage it with Windows Admin Center and the (optional) 5nine management suite.

 

Density

A big part of the Axellio story here revolves around density. You get 4 nodes in 4 RU, and up to 36 NVMe drives per server. Axellio tell me you can pack up to 920TB of raw NVMe-based storage in these things (assuming you’re deploying 6.4TB NVMe drives). You can also have a minimum of 4 drives per server if you have a requirement that is more reliant on processing. There’s a full range of iWARP adapters from Chelsio Communications available with support for 4x 10, 40, or 100GbE connections.

[image courtesy of Axellio]

You can start small and scale up (or out) if required. There’s support for up to 16 nodes in a cluster, and you can manage multiple clusters together if need be.

 

Not That Edge

When I think of edge computing I think of scientific folks doing funky things with big data and generally running Linux-type workloads. While this type of edge computing is still common (and well-catered for with Axellio’s solutions), Axellio are going after what they refer to as the “enterprise edge” market as opposed to the non-Windows workloads. The Windows DC Edition licensing makes sense if you want to run Hyper-V and a number of Windows-based workloads, such as Active Directory domain controllers, file and print services, small databases (basically the type of enterprise workloads traditionally found in remote offices).

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I’m the first to admit that my working knowledge of current Windows technologies is nowhere near what it was 15 years ago. But I understand why choosing Windows as the foundation platform for the edge HCI appliance makes sense for Axellio. There’s a lot less investment they need to make in terms of raw product development, the Windows virtualisation platform continues to mature, there’s already a big install base of Windows in the enterprise, and operations folks will be fairly comfortable with the management interface.

I’ve written about Axellio’s Edge solution previously, and this new offering is a nice extension of that with some Windows chops and “HCI” sensibilities. I’m not interested in getting into a debate about whether this is really a hyper-converged offering or not, but there’s a bunch of compute, storage and networking stuck together with a hypervisor and management tier to help keep it running. Whatever you want to call it, I can see this being a useful (and flexible) solution for those shops who need to have certain workloads close to the edge, and are already leveraging the Windows operating platform to do it.

You can grab the Axellio Data Sheet from here, and a copy of the press release can be found here.

Have Axellio Edge, Will Travel

The Edge

I had the opportunity to talk to X-IO Technologies about their Axellio Edge product at Storage Field Day 13 (you can read about that here). They recently announced a “Portable Axellio Edge Computing System” that “can be quickly disassembled for travel and reassembled onsite” and fits in equipment cases suitable for commercial air travel. Here’s what it looks like.

[image courtesy of X-IO Technologies]

The main chassis is emptied and stored in your checked baggage, with the data packed in a carry-on case that fits within the size limits for US air travel (although I’m not convinced Air France would put up with it based on previous experience). The idea is that the important stuff (or potentially classified data) is within your sight / on your person at all times and there’s less scope for shenanigans.

 

Pigeon Powered

There are a bunch of scenarios where having a lot of processing and capacity at the edge makes a tonne of sense. But what do you do when you need to get it back to the core in a timely fashion for further investigation or analysis? X-IO aren’t the first to come up with portable (and ruggedised) solutions optimised for moving a lot of data by air rather than over the wire, but sometimes the only answer to physics is to fly the stuff where you need it to be.

My thoughts are with the fellow passengers who have to put up with the big case of NVMe that will occupy a bit of space in the overhead bins, but I’ve travelled enough in the US to know that it’s probably not the biggest thing people have tried to fit into those lockers. Heck, I had a manager once who took a 1RU server as carry-on luggage. Sure, he wasn’t popular, but he somehow convinced them it was in spec.

I like the idea behind this product, in much the same way I appreciate that the Edge product has a very specific use case and isn’t suitable for everyone. You can read more about the Axellio Edge here, read the press release here, and grab a copy of the data sheet from here. Justin also provided some typically insightful coverage over at Forbes.