STORAGE

  • 12/01/2014
    8:00 AM
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The True Cost Of Hyperconvergence

Vendors tout hyperconverged systems like EVO:RAIL as less expensive than more conventional storage systems. After pricing my own EVO:RAIL-like system, I found otherwise.

After years of hearing vendors and their fanbois tell me that hyperconverged solutions would revolutionize data center economics, I was a bit surprised when I started hearing rumors that vendors were slapping price tags of more than $200,000 on their EVO:RAIL systems. An EVO:RAIL is four servers and the storage to support the VMs running on those servers, but a $200,000 price tag still seemed a bit steep to me.

So I set out to figure out if -- as the advocates promise -- hyperconverged systems are actually less expensive than their more conventional equivalents. What I found was quite the opposite.

One of the assumptions behind hyperconvergence is efficiency. Building our entire computing environment from the same basic building blocks allows us to manage those building blocks through what before now was an unobtainable single pane of glass. And since those building blocks are themselves made up of industry-standard if not commodity components, the initial cost should be lower than for the purpose-built hardware that makes up today's storage estate.

I've argued that one of the attractions of software-defined storage, of which hyperconverged systems can be considered a special case, is that the cost of a drive slot in a modern storage system actually costs more than the disk drive that goes into that slot. Since my servers -- unless I was so foolish as to be using blade servers -- have disk drive slots that I'm not using, I can use those slots for just the cost of the disk drive and, of course, the software.

When I set out to confirm the $200,000 price rumors for EVO:RAIL, I couldn't find detailed pricing for the Dell or EMC models. I did find an online seller offering the Supermicro SYS-2027TR-VRL002 at $160,000. That's a good 20% less than $200,000, but I still wanted to know if it was a good deal.

After a little time on the Internet and my usual Supermicro supplier sites, I could add up what it would take for me to build an EVO:RAIL style system. I should note that my system will lack the EVO:RAIL front end. I've played with the EVO:RAIL user interface, and it sure does make installing the system easier. But once the system is up and running, I think administrators will use the vCenter client for its better control than the EVO:RAIL simplified UI.

The Hardware (street price)

Part

Price

Qty

Ext

Supermicro Twin2Pro barebones system

4035

1

4035

Xeon E5-2620 V2 CPU

385

8

3080

16 GB ECC RDIMM

150

48

7200

1.2 GB 10K RPM HDD

500

12

6000

Intel DC S3700 400 GB SSD

700

4

2800

Intel X520 10Gbps NIC

450

4

1800

Total

 

 

24,915

I also went to Dell's site and configured an R720, 2U rack-mount server, with the processors, memory, and storage equivalent to an EVO:RAIL node. It came in at $10,500 or $42,000 for a set of four.

The Software

EVO:RAIL includes a significant software bundle, including vSphere Enterprise Plus edition, the vCenter Server appliance, VSAN, Log Insight, and, of course, the EVO:RAIL setup and management tools.

Part

Price

Qty

Ext

vSphere Enterprise Plus

3495

8

27,960

VSAN

2495

8

19,960

Enterprise Plus support 1 yr

874

8

6992

VSAN support 1 yr

624

8

4992

vCenter Server

4995

1

4995

vCenter support 1 yr

1249

1

1249

Log Insight

250

100

25,000

Software total

 

 

91,148

I had a bit of difficulty assigning a value to Log Insight. All but the smallest data centers should have a log analysis solution, and Log Insight is a pretty good one. However, if you're already using Splunk or SumoLogic, it may not be worth $250 per log source device.

Assuming you want to use Log Insight for 100 devices, the total cost of an ersatz EVO:RAIL system is just under $117,000 or $43,000 less than a real EVO:RAIL. Even my R720 VSAN solution comes in at $133,000.

Next page: Dedicated storage comparison

Editor's note: Please see the update from Howard Marks in the comments section below. If you have other information or thoughts on this topic, please let us know in the comments.

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