Aug 30 2017
Data Center

VMworld 2017: Hyperconvergence Offers IT Teams Greater Flexibility

VMware’s partners unveil several new hyperconverged infrastructure solutions.

Although cloud services dominated much of the news at the VMworld 2017 conference in Las Vegas, VMware’s partners were busy touting new hyperconverged infrastructure solutions running on VMware’s cloud platform and software-defined data center platform, vSAN.

VMware executives and customers taking part in a conference panel said that hyperconverged infrastructure gives them greater agility and makes IT management simpler. Companies that adopt HCI can bring together disparate IT teams and streamline data center operations, they said.

Hyperconverged platforms combine computing, storage, networking and virtualization capabilities into a single appliance, all preintegrated and controlled by one management layer.

“A lot of people think it’s about hyperconverging the hardware — storage, servers, together,” Lee Caswell, VMware’s vice president of ‎products, storage and availability, told reporters. “But really, it’s about hyperconverging IT— the storage and server management coming together.”

Some IT teams might find that scary, Caswell said, as storage teams and server teams look to make sure operations remain reliable and perform as they should. VMware addresses this by turning the data center into virtual machines that can be easily managed and calibrated for capacity and performance, he said. That means that data center teams can become generalists and manage their IT without having to worry about performance.

The market seems to agree that HCI is a technology worth adopting. According to IDC, the hyperconverged infrastructure market grew nearly 65 percent year over year during the first quarter of 2017, generating $665 million in sales. The research firm expects the market to reach $6 billion by 2020, up from just over $2 billion in 2016

VMware Customers Extoll the Virtues of Hyperconvergence

Panel participant Jeff Thomas, CTO of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, told conferencegoers that the company refreshed its hardware and went with vSAN to avoid putting in a storage area network. Smithfield then put in a three-stack HCI solution in its 48 plants, which has reduced hardware replacement costs by 20 to 40 percent from what the company was going to spend, Thomas said.

The reliability of the HCI platform has also enabled Smithfield to put in place Internet of Things solutions and reduce hardware. By the end of 2018, Smithfield expects to reduce its data center hardware by 70 percent, Thomas said.

“It’s changed the reliability in our plants,” Thomas said. “And that’s huge.” Smithfield must process the meat in its plants in three days to get it out to suppliers and into the market, given the meat’s 21-day lifecycle. If a plant’s IT goes down, that can have a major impact, he said

“HCI has really changed that vSAN, and that vSAN really has enabled us to take some of the risk out of our environment that we previously had,” Thomas said. “And that’s just huge for us.”

Thomas said HCI delivers benefits to companies with small IT teams. Smithfield has just four server administrators covering the company’s 48 plants, including the firm’s cloud operations. HCI has allow Smithfield to “really leverage” that staff. “I was able to assign two engineers to become versed initially, and to be the architects of that process with my solution architecture group, which is a person,” he said.

IT generalists in the plants can work with the HCI appliances and manage them, Thomas said. “From an IT standpoint, it really has reduced my need for staff.”

Herbalife, which markets and sells nutrition supplements and weight management, sports nutrition and personal-care products, has eight data centers around the world, according to panel participant Jaime Gurrola, manager of the company’s server operations. The company wanted to reduce or collapse its data center in Los Angeles, but did not want to compromise on performance or being able to grow.

Herbalife went through a proof-of-concept test with vSAN, but the reliability results were so apparent that the company’s management told its IT leaders to go to production and adopt the solution immediately, Gurrola said. That came at the perfect time, because Herbalife was about to roll out virtual desktop infrastructure globally, which would run the company’s call center operations and could not be subject to downtime.

Gurrola said that when that the company refreshed its storage, it had to come up with a two-week change management process for integrating its storage and server operations teams. But the move to vSAN has mitigated that; now, when Herbalife provisions a new environment, it also provisions storage, compute and networking. “It removes all the roadblocks,” he said.

Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo Tout HCI Innovations

VMware’s partners unveiled a range of hyperconvergence solutions this week. First, Dell EMC updated its VxRail appliance with the latest software version, VxRail 4.5.

The company said the update will deliver greater scalability, as the deployment process can be applied to multinode expansions. VxRail 4.5 also offers new support for representational state transfer (REST) application programming interfaces to programmatically deliver lifecycle management software upgrades to an entire VxRail cluster simultaneously.

And, Dell EMC says, the update delivers advanced security features, including vSAN Encryption, the industry’s first native HCI security solution with data-at-rest encryption built into vSAN 6.6.

Meanwhile, Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced Private Cloud Express with VMware vRealize, a new preintegrated solution that includes VMware vRealize on HPE SimpliVity 380, HPE’s hyperconverged infrastructure platform.

HPE says Private Cloud Express is ideal for remote and branch offices and can help simplify IT management and reduce costs, in addition to providing application assessment services to determine the best process for migrating applications.

Finally, Lenovo announced the ThinkAgile VX Series, powered by vSAN. The platform is a preconfigured HCI solution aimed at providing simplified management and greater efficiency.

Read more articles and check out videos from BizTech coverage of VMworld 2017 here

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