NetApp goes HyperConverged-isch with NetApp HCI

On June 5th NetApp decided to disrupt the IT market and came out with several announcements around the Data Fabric, ONTAP 9 and finally their own HyperConverged solution. In this blogpost, I’d like to look a little bit deeper in how the HCI solution looks like and what we can expect when it is GA.
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According to IDC, the global HCI (hyper converged infrastructure) market is at $3 billion in annual revenue, and it’s expected to grow to $7 billion by 2020. NetApp HCI enables the customers to gain additional market opportunity and differentiation by selling an enterprise-scale hyper converged infrastructure into the most demanding data centers. Our IT market and industry is heading into the “Next Generation Data Center” and HCI is for sure one of the players in this area. To achieve consolidation and still maintain flexibility on the journey to the cloud customers need to look for new was on how to build their environments.

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But what makes NetApp HCI so special?
Over the last couple of years we saw more and more HCI solutions floating the market. No matter if you talk about Nutanix, SimpliVity (now HPE), VMware vSAN (as part of VMware vSphere) or the most recent one Cisco HyperFlex. A lot of vendors, now also NetApp, have decided that this is a market the need to play in. Seeing all existing solutions the question could be “why the hell is NetApp releasing a HCI solution”? And I think the answer is simple: “Data Fabric” and “Enterprise Scalability”. The last 5-7 years NetApp was really pushing to drive the Data Fabric vision which is now becoming true. Access and move your data whenever needed and wherever needed with almost no downtime. And the new NetApp HCI solution is already fully integrated in this story.

Second part of the answer is Enterprise Scalability. HCI so far was always a little bit limited when it came to low-latency or Enterprise workloads. Mainly because it was hard to control the data access or impossible to set QoS policies. And that’s what NetApp HCI solves. By using NetApp SolidFire in the back-end they can easily set certain IO and performance policies to make sure that even an enterprise application works well. How does that look like.

Let say you got the “Noisy Neighbor” problem, where one VM that is consuming to much resources impacts and slows down all other VMs. A performance chart would usually look like this:
Bild2After setting QoS for the “Noisy Neighbor” or setting guaranteed performance for an other VM, you can optimize the environment and your performance chart will end up like this:
Bild3So for me, one of the key features and differentiators is, again, the QoS settings of SolidFire in the NetApp HCI backend.

What else?
Next to this another very important capability in these days is management and esp. open interfaces for automation. NetApp HCI can be completely orchestrated and managed by using a singe Application Program Interface (API). No matter what you want to do, you can use API calls to manage and automate everything. Easy to understand and very important looking into Next-Gen Data Centers.
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Another important part of HCI is always the setup and maintenance process. NetApp HCI can be installed and configured within some hours to make sure you can leverage and use your new resources very fast.
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NetApp HCI is fully integrated into VMware vSphere which makes the management and handling very easy. No new tools, nothing to learn.

What configurations and systems will be available?
NetApp HCI comes with compute- and storage nodes an 2-U chassis. The chassis can host 4 independent nodes (e.g. 3 storage and 1 compute nodes) and you scale by adding additional chassis with nodes. Everything is All-Flash only and runs SolidFire iSCSI in the back-end. But that doesn’t mean you can’t store any files on it or place other multi-protocol workloads. By leveraging ONTAP select within the HCI you can provide any kind of needed protocol access.
2017-06-14 20_37_50-2017-03-30 17_21_21-Settings.jpg bei 100% (RGB_8#) _In the first version, available in GA later this year, you will see the following configurations available for you HCI installation:
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Demo time?
For now I unfortunately didn’t had the chance for hands-on but you can find a recorded NetApp HCI demo here:

Conclusion
Entering the HCI market is for sure a exciting step for NetApp but seeing the potential and idea behind the solution I’m sure they will become a serious competitor  for all other, existing vendors.
Due to their 4 unique selling points I’m looking forward to get hands-on and show you even more.

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Useful links:
If you want to know more about the NetApp HCI solution I can recommend the following resources:
Blog in NetApp’s Newsroom – Introducing NetApp Enterprise-Scale HCI: The Next Generation of Hyper Converged Infrastructure
Blog of my NetApp United Colleague Andre Schmitz – Presentation: NetApp hyper converged infrastructure (HCI)
Blog of my NetApp United Colleague Dario Furigo – NetApp HCI is here…
NetApp HCI Landingpage

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