Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Upcoming Events

Where the Cloud Touches Down: Simplifying Data Center Infrastructure Management

Thursday, July 25, 2013
10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET

In most data centers, DCIM rests on a shaky foundation of manual record keeping and scattered documentation. OpManager replaces data center documentation with a single repository for data, QRCodes for asset tracking, accurate 3D mapping of asset locations, and a configuration management database (CMDB). In this webcast, sponsored by ManageEngine, you will see how a real-world datacenter mapping stored in racktables gets imported into OpManager, which then provides a 3D visualization of where assets actually are. You'll also see how the QR Code generator helps you make the link between real assets and the monitoring world, and how the layered CMDB provides a single point of view for all your configuration data.

Register Now!

A Network Computing Webinar:
SDN First Steps

Thursday, August 8, 2013
11:00 AM PT / 2:00 PM ET

This webinar will help attendees understand the overall concept of SDN and its benefits, describe the different conceptual approaches to SDN, and examine the various technologies, both proprietary and open source, that are emerging. It will also help users decide whether SDN makes sense in their environment, and outline the first steps IT can take for testing SDN technologies.

Register Now!

More Events »

Subscribe to Newsletter

  • Keep up with all of the latest news and analysis on the fast-moving IT industry with Network Computing newsletters.
Sign Up

See more from this blogger

The Hyperconverged Infrastructure

One of the biggest trends in the data center during the past two or three years has been the emergence of integrated stacks that combine compute platforms, storage and networking into a complete system. Customers like the idea of an integrated stack because it eliminates finger pointing when something goes wrong and reduces implementation time.

Vendors like them because they get to sell a lot of kits, and loyal customers won't even think about using some other vendor's products. As a result, all the full-line IT infrastructure vendors now have some sort of integrated blade server/storage/networking stack. One could even argue that Dell's acquisition of Force10 and IBM's of Blade Network Technologies were primarily plays to be able to control all the technology in their stacks.

More Insights


More >>

White Papers

More >>


More >>

For an old timer like me, there's a certain "everything old is new again" aspect to the whole concept of integrated stacks. Back in the mainframe and minicomputer era, vendors like IBM, DEC and Data General delivered complete systems to their customers, including not only the compute and storage but also peripherals like terminals and printers, and even application software like the first-generation email applications PROFS from IBM and All-In-1 from DEC.

Of course, not all stacks are created equal. The first of the current generation of infrastructure stacks was the Cisco-VMware-EMC VCE joint venture, which started with tall, grande and venti combinations of EMC storage, Cisco UCS servers and network gear all running VMware's vSphere. As other vendors released their own stacks, they've ranged from reference architectures like NetApp's FlexPod or EMC's VSPEX to complete systems that come all cabled up with the hypervisor and management tools preinstalled like VCE's.

As someone who made his living integrating servers, network gear and storage from different vendors, I never found the full rack and larger, pre-engineered systems terribly attractive. I figured I could pick best-of-breed components and make them work anyway. I have found the smaller systems that generally fit in a single blade chassis by including a storage blade like Dell EqualLogic's new PS-4110. A compact system like that seemed to me a good fit for branch offices.

During the past year, a few startups have introduced a new type of converged IT infrastructure combining storage and compute not just in a preconfigured rack, but also in a single brick that could serve as the basis of a scale-out system. Steve Chambers, who works in VCE's office of the CTO, dubbed these systems hyperconverged in a post on his blog, where he divided the integrated stack market into six segments.

The hyperconverged systems are usually based on server hardware that uses a virtual storage appliance that manages the SSDs and/or spinning disks in that node and communicates with the VSA in other nodes to create a clustered distributed file system and publishes the data to the hypervisors via iSCSI or NFS. The whole thing is then managed by a vCenter plug-in so while there is a sophisticated storage system in the back end, the whole shebang can be managed by a virtualization or server admin.

While I haven't seen one yet, the next step would be for someone to include an Ethernet switch as part of the package, the way Skyera did on its Skyhawk array.

Several vendors make hyperconverged systems, including Nutanix, SimpliVity, Pivot3 and Scale Computing. I'll be writing more about these systems soon.

Related Reading

Network Computing encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Network Computing moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing/SPAM. Network Computing further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | Please read our commenting policy.
Vendor Comparisons
Network Computing’s Vendor Comparisons provide extensive details on products and services, including downloadable feature matrices. Our categories include:

Research and Reports

Network Computing: April 2013

TechWeb Careers