Thoughts on a storage solution for small companies – part 2


Thoughts on a storage solution for small companies – part 2

In my previous post I talked about the thought I had with storage solutions for a case I was working on. Had a lot of discussions and conversation with every vendor out there, which is good for it keeps me sharp and I learn a lot in a short period of time.
Let’s do a recap and see where we stand.
First let’s make sure you all understand where the train leaves, had some discussion about huge environment that are not really in sync with this case.
Again lets’ state I’m not a storage guy, so I might look at these things a bit different than you would expect. Some products I took only a quick look at for the pricing was not applicable for this case. all prices here a list prices or prices found on Google, sure you can do a good deal to get them lower, for me it was to get a figure to compare.

The Case

The case I was looking at was to choose a storage solution for a small business, with small I mean 150vm’s or less. For this customer it was even a maximum of 100 vm’s.
Sure some of you will wonder if they customers exist but in the Netherlands many of these sized companies exist. What kind of companies are this, think about engineering of any kind. they use CAD like applications and design things.
So before you say it’s not worth the sweat to design a storage solution let’s think about the CAD a bit and realize that these are the companies that you can implement and learn most about CAD and VDI.

Storage solutions

So in my first blog about this I didn’t mention all vendors and boy did they tell me that. The reason I didn’t was that I knew that some wouldn’t fit the case. So two days older and wiser let’s do that recap and see what has been chosen.
The following vendors have been taken in account (by now);
  • FusionIO (SanDisk) or HP Accelerator card
  • VMware VSAN
  • Nutanix
  • Tintri
  • Atlantis ILIO
  • Pernixdata FVP
Hope I don’t forget anyone now…

Solutions versus this case

Let’s again remind you the customer has 90 employees and let’s for ease of calculation assume 100vm’s. The run VMware Horizon View 6 and use a MSA SAN for storage. Neither of these components are going to be replaced. The customer asked for a solution in which it can still use the MSA but speed things up. One last thing is that they want a simple solution that is easily managed.

FusionIO or whatever we call it….

Great product, used it many times before there was anything on the market that could be an alternative. FusionIO (SanDisk) or Accelerator card as it is listed on hardware vendors KIT list is a SSD solution that will provide local storage to a host. All virtual machines that you deploy on the datastore created from the SSD will have improved performance.

Does it impact the current solution?
Yes it does, you need to redeploy the virtual machines to another datastore.
Will it solve the performance issues?
Yes it will solve the issues they have right now with performance.
Will it deliver ease of management and contribute to simplicity?
No it won’t, it’s a local datastore, virtual machines are stuck on a host. you loose some flexibility and if a host goes down all virtual machines go with it.
Scalability
FusionIO is scalable as local storage, when you need more desktops you buy a host and add a card.
What about costs?
It’s not cheap although the scale cards are better priced, for a local solution is pretty expensive. Prices can go up from 3K to 15K I think, perhaps even more depending on the size.
For this environment we would need three 385GB disks for 100vm’s would spread over three hosts. These cards go for 5K each list I think.
What is the verdict?
It’s a no, I won’t advice the customer to use it. 

VMware VSAN

VMware VSAN has been developed to make use of local storage and provide it as a virtual SAN. This at first looks like the solution I was looking for.
VMware VSAN uses a local SSD for performance, could well be a FusionIO card and needs spinning disks for storage. The more host you add the bigger you VSAN will get both in storage and IOPS available. Seems almost too perfect.
The requirements for a VSAN are pretty high, you would need a recommended four hosts for it. Looking back at my case with 100vm’s you will not be surprised if I say they now have only two hosts. So the implement a VSAN would cost them at least 2 new hosts.. 100vm’s spread over 4 hosts, sure that will do 🙂
Another thing with VSAN is the storage, you need storage in the hosts. I was looking at the calculators of VMware and Duncan and if you (for 100vm’s) add a 2TB disk you need two disks per host+ the SSD. If you go for less than 2TB the number of disks per host will go up. The customer has DL380 G7 hosts that can fit eight disks. So seven could be spinning if we also need to add a SSD there. 

Does it impact the current solution?
Yes it does, you need to redeploy the virtual machines to another datastore, the local spinning disks.
Will it solve the performance issues?
Yes it will solve the issues they have right now with performance.
Will it deliver ease of management and contribute to simplicity?
Yes it will ease management for you have a virtual SAN spreading over all hosts.
Scalability
VMware VSAN is designed for scalability, the more host the better. ever host that contributes with storage and IOPS will make the VSAN more powerful. 
What about costs?
The pricing isn’t that bad, with View advanced and higher it’s included and if you buy it separate it’ll cost you about $50 per desktop. The costs go up for the SSD’s and the spinning disks you need to buy extra. With four hosts and a 2TB disk that would lead up to eight 2TB disks also.
The Intel S3700 400GB SSD has a list of around 750 euro’s so that around 1000 dollar. a 2TB SAS goes around $ 600-700 each. All Google list prices 🙂
What is the verdict?
It’s a no, I won’t advice the customer to use it. VMware VSAN is not designed for small environments. You need at least 150 or 200vm’s or more to benefit from the investment.

Nutanix

Nutanix is not the average player in the market on the named storage vendors. Nutanix does more than just offload read and writes, it does deliver compute also. With Nutanix you would replace the current solution as a whole and replace it with theirs.
I’ve talked with them about this and if we focus on this case their starting model would be best fit. That model is a three node solution where two nodes are active. it the NX-1450 model.
In a current solution is not possible to add Nutanix just like that, you need to add it when designing the whole environment.

Does it impact the current solution?
Yes it does, you bring in compute and therefor replace the environment. Cool stuff but not really what they are looking for.
Will it solve the performance issues?
Yes it will solve the issues they have right now with performance.
Will it deliver ease of management and contribute to simplicity?
Yes it will, they wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.
Scalability
One appliance can host four nodes, each node can host 50 vm’s I think (correct me if I’m wrong), So scalability is easy, 200 vm’s per appliance and you stack up as you grow.
What about costs?
This is one of the reason why I didn’t put it in last time, I know Nutanix is not for the smaller environment and it delivers compute with it. The prices are out of sync with the rest if you look at storage acceleration alone. from a google query I saw that the NX-1450 starts around 100K.
What is the verdict?
It’s a no, I won’t advice the customer to use it. It’s meant for Enterprise environment of a larger scale.

Tintri

Tintri uses an appliance to speed uup performance, they do not deliver computer as Nutanix do.With smart dedup and compression like some other also do they determine which data per vm should go to SSD and which to Spinning disk. It’s simply said a hybrid storage solution.
They released a new starting model, the Tintri VMstore T820 which could host 750 vm’s. I don’t have to say that in my case with 100vm’s this box is a bit oversized. Again like Nutanix it for the large scale Enterprises, great stuff but not for smaller environments.

Does it impact the current solution?
Yes it does, you implement a new data store for the virtual machines to which they have to be deployed.
Will it solve the performance issues?
Yes it will solve the issues they have right now with performance.
Will it deliver ease of management and contribute to simplicity?
Yes it will, they wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.
Scalability
Not sure about scalability of Tintri but I’m pretty sure from what I read that it’s also stack and go as you grow.
What about costs?
Tintri is also a bit on the high side of pricing, and again it’s because it’s a different market. they aim for 750vm’s or higher, costs are around 74K for the T820 model list price.
What is the verdict?
It’s a no, I won’t advice the customer to use it. It’s meant for Enterprise environment of a larger scale.

Atlantis ILIO

Atlantis also uses an appliance but not to compute, the appliance is installed in each host and uses a bit of the local RAM of that host to deliver the performance.
Atlantis ILIO creates a NFS datastore from the RAM and provides that to you to deploy you desktops on. Each host will have a separate appliance installed on it or you could choose to deploy one appliance for all hosts. The downside with that would be that networking is involved.

Does it impact the current solution?

Yes it does, you need to deploy your desktops to the new NFS datastore
Will it solve the performance issues?
Yes it will solve the issues they have right now with performance.
Will it deliver ease of management and contribute to simplicity?
Yes it will
Scalability  
With adding more host you would add an appliance per host also, scalability is not a problem. I don’t know if they have limitation but for this case it’s no issue.
What about costs?
The pricing is about $150 per desktop which makes it rather expensive I think for small businesses. It’still okay but they could do better.
What is the verdict?
It’s a could be, it would solve the performance issues but I’m not too keen on re-deploying and having a appliance on each host handling things. The usage of memory is pretty cool and gives it a plus.

Pernixdata FVP

Pernixdata FVP is a filter driver solution that you install on each host. It uses a local SSD to cache all read and writes.
The environment as it is running doesn’t need to be changed, after you installed the SSD and the filter driver you can set which datastore is to be cached by Pernixdata FVP. The SSD has to be able to hold all 100 vm’s non-persistent data because FVP syncs this between host to provide fault tolerance.
Pernixdata  is the only one providing a small business license.

Does it impact the current solution?
There is limited impact, the hosts will need a SSD to be added and driver to be installed.
Will it solve the performance issues?
Yes it will solve the issues they have right now with performance.
Will it deliver ease of management and contribute to simplicity?
Yes it will, the environment as it is now won’t change and therefor the SAN will still be used for storing the virtual machines while the local SSD will handle the caching.
Scalability
Pernixdata FVP can add more hosts as you need them, with the essentials plus license however you can’t. That license is limited to three hosts, but as you might remember that is our limit also. Customer now has 70 vm’s running and they might grow. when they grow over 100 they need to invest, but they assured me they had no plans to go there..
What about costs?
Pernixdata has a special price for smaller environments, the Essentials Plus license is limited to maximum of 3 hosts and 100vm’s. That’s exactly what we had in this case, we wanted to add another host to gain redundancy and have 100vm’s max. This essentials plus license costs $7500, we have to add the three SSD disks to this, so three time a Intel S3700 400GB which goes for around $ 1000 each Google list. Mind you to remember that the essentials license needs the VMware Essentials license. If you don’t have that one you need e.g. the Standard license.
What is the verdict?
Because Pernix has a small customer license and because I don’t have to change the environment I will advice the customer to select this solution.
Main reason is that the MSA can be used so they don’t have to invest in a new SAN, Ease of management for it won’t change compared to now.

Conclusion

For me it’s clear that in a small environment there are not that much options, when however you grow as a company and reach over 150-200 vm’s the world opens up.For this case Pernixdata will be chosen, but tomorrow or next week on another case all cards are in the game again.

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