2022 Top HCI Providers Quick Comparison

Nutanix vs vSAN & HPE dHCI vs Pure Storage

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) combines storage, compute and networking into one simplified, secure, easily managed solution – unlike legacy silos. HCI is therefore often the choice for companies refreshing their servers and storage. With so many use cases such as server consolidation, remote offices, VDI etc. with multiple HCI vendors to assess, we asked Comport’s Senior Solution Architect, Tim Turner, to share his insights.  Tim’s experience includes over a decade of data management design and implementations.

Let’s look at the two categories of HCI.  To be in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, HCI Solutions must be software defined.  With this definition, the two top HCI Providers are VMware and Nutanix.  In fact, they are the only two in the leader quadrant. Both solutions provide benefits for Comport’s customers and Tim is a big supporter of both.

In addition to Gartner’s definition of HCI, there is another category worth exploring. These solutions are a modern converged infrastructure (CI), meaning they additionally provide enhanced management, scaling and integration.  Use cases in this category tend to be performance oriented.

The top CI products include HPE dHCI (disaggregated HCI) and Pure Storage FlashStack. As these solutions are more than software, you are tied more to the manufacturer for some of the hardware.  For example, HPE dHCI includes ProLiant Servers coupled with HPE Nimble or HPE Alletra Storage with some flexibility on network options.  Pure Storage, on the other hand, combines their solution with Cisco UCS.

Organizations weighing their options between a software defined HCI vs a modern CI solution may want to compare the top two vendors in each area. Below we provide information to help sort through your best options.

Software Defined HCI

Nutanix is a 6x Gartner Magic Quadrant software company with a large install base that supports several OEM’s and third-party server vendors.

What are the major considerations of Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure?

  • True one-click upgrades (software and firmware) is a big advantage. The simplicity of upgrading your environment helps remove gaps that cyber criminals could exploit.
  • Their Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) is included at no charge. AHV is based on KVM and reduces cost for those wishing to move off VMware.
  • Support for VMWare, Hyper-V and AHV; most other HCI solutions only support VMware.
  • Nutanix provides additional features like file, object and data protection.
  • Collector and Sizer tools make right-sizing a solution easier than other options.
  • Level of integration provides a great support experience
  • Note that some supported ISV’s only work on AHV, Nutanix’s hypervisor.

Moving on to the other software-defined hyperconverged heavyweight… VMware vSAN is also a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for HCI Software and has a large customer base.

Some Major Considerations for VMware vSAN

  • vSAN integration with VSphere can be useful.
  • VMware comes with pre-configured and tested vSAN Ready Nodes and supports many server vendors.
  • Works with typical public cloud providers.
  • vSAN File Service supports SMB and NFS file shares.
  • Support can be less integrated, depending on how various components are purchased.
  • Deduplication can carry a larger performance overhead.
  • vSAN only supports VMware.
  • The upgrade process is not as automated.

Modern Converged Infrastructure (CI) Solutions

Another more recent class of solutions, modern Converged Infrastructure, build on the strengths of HCI providers by adding flexibility in how servers and storage grow and data management capabilities.

Let’s start with HPE dHCI:

  • A big benefit of HPE dHCI is that compute and storage can be added independently.
  • Data management features like deduplication, compression, and encryption are offloaded to the Alletra or Nimble storage array, freeing up CPU resources on the servers.
  • HPE dHCI can start with as few as 2 nodes, making it easier for smaller organizations to start small and grow.
  • Easy one-click upgrades via HPE Stack Manager as a vCenter plugin.
  • dHCI can work in both new and existing environments; existing HPE Gen9 or Gen10 ProLiant servers can be incorporated as well as new HPE Nimble hybrid storage or all-flash Alletra. Some existing networking can also be used.  This can be helpful when servers, storage, and networking come up for refresh at different times.
  • You can use Alletra/Nimble storage for both dHCI and non-dHCI workloads.

Some other considerations:

  • The Nimble or Alletra array must be purchased upfront as a dHCI solution – an existing array is not dHCI ready.
  • HPE dHCI only supports VMware

Now onward to Pure Storage FlashStack. 

FlashStack is a validated design between Cisco and Pure Storage.  There are many designs around VMware, Red Hat OpenShift, SAP Hana, and MS SQL Server on RHEL to name a few.

  • PureStack can use existing Cisco and Pure infrastructure.
  • Great option for Cisco UCS customers – but UCS is required.
  • Works with iSCSI and/or Fibre Channel
  • Support shared between Cisco and Pure is not as seamless as others
  • No single management tool
  • More a “Reference architecture” than a true “Modern CI” solution – less integrated

How do you want to consume HCI or CI Solutions?

Today many organizations prefer a monthly “pay as you go” consumption-based fee for their infrastructure rather than a big upfront purchase.  Comport can help here.  With Nutanix, vSAN, and HPE dHCI we can utilize HPE GreenLake for a flexible consumption model that starts with a minimum amount and scales as your usage increases.  These types of programs can present an improved financial solution in many cases.

Key factors that any HCI solution should include

  • Ease of Use – For day-to-day operations, upgrades, visibility, predictive capacity and CPU modeling, any new solution should help you do more with less.
  • Security – to meet your business needs is essential for any product under evaluation.
  • Independent Storage and Compute Scaling – Choose a CI solution that has independent scaling if your use case(s) grow compute and storage at different rates. Otherwise you duplicate the entire HCI stack, which is much more costly.
  • Performance – If you have critical application performance requirements, make sure that the solution can maintain the performance needed over time as it grows.
  • An option for consumption-based purchase can be useful for stretching the IT budget.

These pointers will be useful as you consider your needs versus these HCI and modern CI solutions. Selecting the best hyperconverged infrastructure for your environment and expected growth involves many considerations. Comport, a trusted technology solution provider, has the business and technical expertise and partner relationships to help you reach the right solutions. Get started – Reach out for an initial conversation.

Author: Tim Turner

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