Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: Simplifying the Data Center and Removing Compromise From Consideration

Yanbing Li, Vice President and General Manager, Storage and Availability at VMware

Yanbing Li, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Storage and Availability at VMware

In an online event today, Yanbing Li will outline VMware’s hyper-converged strategy, including VMware hyper-converged software, and what’s new in VMware Virtual SAN 6.2—the fourth major release of VMware’s simple, enterprise-grade storage for vSphere (read the press release). We spoke with Yanbing before the launch to get her thoughts on what’s driving interest in hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and VMware’s hyper-converged software.

Q: HCI is the fastest growing segment in the converged system market. Why is that? What is driving that growth?

A: As an architecture, hyper-converged infrastructure addresses a pressing data center issue. It drives down the cost and complexity of storage in virtualized environments, allowing customers to realize the full benefits of server virtualization. That’s the fundamental premise.

VMware drove a fundamental re-architecture of the server tier with vSphere. Abstracting, virtualizing, and pooling x86 compute resources made it possible to significantly increase utilization and reduce the number of physical servers, while dramatically simplifying both the initial provisioning and subsequent migration of workloads running in virtual machines.

HCI is a next-gen architecture that extends that model and its benefits across the storage tier. In HCI, storage functionality is merged into the hypervisor and deployed atop commodity-priced x86 hardware using direct-attached storage. It makes storage an integral, simple, and robust part of the virtualization platform, tremendously simplifying operations, reducing costs, and increasing agility.

The converged systems approach, in which system design, integration, and testing is performed by the vendor, rather than the customer, is an ideal delivery vehicle for HCI. Freed from the role of systems integrator, customers enjoy a very streamlined and predictable path to the benefits of HCI.

Q: What is VMware’s approach to HCI? What is VMware hyper-converged software?

A: VMware has a two-part strategy. We make the best possible enabling software for hyper-converged: a combination of vSphere, the trusted foundation of the market-leading hypervisor; Virtual SAN, the simple but enterprise-grade, high performance storage built natively in vSphere; and vCenter Server is the tightly-unified management plane. We think that’s the best software stack for enabling HCI.

The second part of our strategy is that we make that software available to customers through a broad and deep range of consumption options. These options range from us enabling organizations to assemble their own systems from pre-certified components all the way to turnkey appliances sold by a number of our OEM partners. The Virtual SAN Ready Node program offers the industry’s broadest set of choice with more than 100 Ready Nodes. In addition, I am particularly excited about the upcoming announcement of a new game-changing family of appliances jointly developed by EMC and VMware.

Q: What is VMware’s position in the HCI market?

A: We believe that VMware is the industry leader of hyper-converged software in the HCI market. The fact that HCI vendors use a mix of delivery models, from software-only to bundles to turnkey appliances, can make it hard to assess the overall state of the market, especially when considering measures like revenue. We assess our progress based on what we feel is the most direct and relevant metric: customers. We have more total licensed customers for our hyper-converged software (and have shipped more units in the second half of 2015) than any other publicly-disclosing HCI vendor has for their respective solutions.

Q: What is customer response to VMware’s HCS to date? How are they benefiting from our approach to HCI?

A: We have seen this industry-leading adoption across all sizes of organizations, across many deployment environments, across all kinds of applications. The joint value propositions of a much simpler and better architecture, offered through flexible consumption models, is proving compelling to customers. The benefits that they cite tend to be very much focused on reduced cost, performance improvements, and simplified operations. Customers will continue to reap those benefits over the full lifecycle of their HCI deployments.

Q: How will customers benefit from our launch this week?

A: The Virtual SAN 6.2 release that we announced furthers the theme of simplification. We introduced new management features—QoS limits, enhanced performance and capacity monitoring, and extended health checks—that make deployment and ongoing operations even easier for all customers. In addition, the all-flash data efficiency features in Virtual SAN 6.2 make selection and configuration even simpler. Driving up storage efficiency drives down the effective cost of all-flash configurations, eliminating for many customers the need to choose between performance and capacity. We offer all-flash performance for significantly less than leading hybrid solutions.

In addition, with an expanded Ready Node program, we are working with our OEM partners to extend the already-broad range of consumption options. This helps ensure that customers can get best-of-breed VMware-powered HCI solutions—including licensing and support—from their preferred vendors, on hardware configurations that are tightly aligned with their workloads and environments. VMware’s strong ecosystem has always been key to meeting the needs of a large, diverse customer base.

Finally, stay tuned for more details from EMC and VMware on our turnkey hyper-converged infrastructure appliances.

Learn more about this news with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and EVP, Software-Defined Data Center Division, Raghu Raghuram. The live event, “Build and Manage Your Hybrid Cloud,” will begin at 8:30 AM PT. Register now.