I attended VMworld 2013 and was lucky enough to also go to Virtualization Field Day (VFD) Roundtables with SimpliVity, CommVault, Infinio, and Asigra. For this article, I'll focus on the Boston-based SimpliVity, which won the VMworld Best in Show Gold Award for Storage and Backup for Virtualized Environments. In particular, I'm going to spotlight SimpliVity's OmniCube. You can watch a video of SimpliVity's VFD presentation on OmniCube, given by Jesse St. Laurent, VP of Product Strategy.
OmniCube, like other converged data center hardware, has storage and compute built in to the 2U box (Figure A). It comes in three hardware models: CN-2000 for the SMB, CN-3000 for most data centers, and CN-5000 for high-performance applications. When you put several of these appliances together, they call it a federation, and you're able to mix and match models within a federation. You join a new OmniCube to a federation to expand the pool of resources. SimpliVity tries to avoid the word cluster because OmniCube is more self-aware than what is implied by the word cluster. You can have only one OmniCube in your environment.
There is what SimpliVity calls an SVT inside OmniCube. SVT is the software controller that is in charge of all the services, and it's what allows virtual machines (VMs) to access storage in several OmniCubes if necessary, taking away the need for a large, expensive storage array in the backend. SVT also makes it possible for the OmniCube to be used in an existing environment. You can present the OmniCube storage to current physical ESXi hosts and still use OmniCube storage features.
Backups and snapshots
SimpliVity argues that traditional shared storage (i.e., datastores) are not the way to go when it comes to backups and/or snapshots, so the company is practicing a more VM-centric way of doing it. Because of its tight integration with vCenter, this allows VMware admins to back up and restore the VMs they want without having to back up or snapshot the entire datastore. As is pointed out in the video presentation, though, they still are not able to easily back up all VMs associated with a certain application in an automated way.
SimpliVity also has the ability to hook into Amazon's EC2 Cloud Services, so you can back up your VMs to the cloud, allowing you to minimize any hardware purchases.
Disaster avoidance and recovery
SimpliVity has what it calls a SimpliVity move: You can take a VM in one site and move the entire thing to another site. It will unregister the VM with the original vCenter and register it with vCenter in the new site. Unfortunately, any networking cleanup and so on is not automated currently. I asked: "What is the difference between this and VMware's Site Recovery Manager?" and Mr. St. Laurent pretty much avoided my question, which leads me to believe there will be some tight integration there, but that's conjecture.
Unlike some other vendors in this arena, SimpliVity embraces connecting its appliances over WANs and still offers one GUI for ease of management and replication.
OmniStack consists of the SVT controller as well as the OmniCube Accelerator, which is a customized PCIe card that offloads compute to allow the OmniCube to preserve CPU resources for other tasks and enables inline deduplication, optimization, and compression.
From the SimpliVity site: "The OmniStack solutions incorporate three unique core innovations that SimpliVity brings to market:
- Virtual Resource Assimilator: A single software stack that assimilates the functionality of multiple traditional IT infrastructure products into a single shared x86 resource pool.
- Data Virtualization Engine: A novel data architecture where all data is compressed, deduplicated, and optimized at inception, inline with no impact to application performance.
- Global Federated Architecture: An intelligent network of collaborative systems that provide massive scale-out as well as VM-centric single point management."
I haven't had a chance to test SimpliVity's OmniCube, but it seems like SimpliVity scales out rather easily and that it's worth a look. If you're running OmniCube, what do you think of it? Also, what are your thoughts about this kind of converged infrastructure? Let us know in the comments.
Lauren Malhoit has been in the IT field for over 10 years and has acquired several data center certifications. She's currently a Technology Evangelist for Cisco focusing on ACI and Nexus 9000. She has been writing for a few years for TechRepublic, Tech Pro Research, and VirtualizationAdmin.com. As a Cisco Champion, EMC Elect, VMware vExpert, and PernixPro, Lauren stays involved in the IT community. Lauren has been a delegate for Tech Field Day and has also authored a book called VMware vCenter Operations Manager Essentials.