Evaluating hyperconverged vendors: Is your mission critical data protected?
By guest blogger, Jesse St. Laurent, HPE Chief Technologist, Hyperconverged & SimpliVity
Not all hyperconverged systems are created equal. 2015 was the year hyperconvergence became mainstream and it appears that 2017 is the year when the market leaders distinguish themselves from the pack. Whenever a market segment enters a phase of extreme growth, it attracts a crowd of new products that attempt to market and brand themselves into that space. Unfortunately, this can create a tremendous amount of confusion and make it much more difficult for IT buyers to decipher what's valuable and what's simply background noise.
Customers need a way to be able to distinguish what’s important and what is just hype when evaluating a hyperconverged vendor’s solution. One of the key must-have’s is data protection. Any hyperconverged vendor has to be able to continuiously offer protection for mission-dritical data. Why? Because there is nothing more important than data in IT. A server can be replaced…a network can be replaced…data cannot be replaced. This is why HPE SimpliVity hyperconverged solutions focus on data protection.
One key dimension of a hyperconverged system is that it provides all of the data storage for virtual machines, and storing data is not something to be taken lightly. Every HPE SimpliVity system protects data internally with RAID. This protects the data in the event that a HDD or SSD fails in a system. HPE SimpliVity’s architecture also leverages RAIN, since the data is also saved to two separate systems, to protect from any type of node failure within the environment. HPE SimpliVity applies these multiple levels of protection because customer data is critical.
Unfortunately, not all vendors recommend the same level of data protection. Some systems in the market use the technique of writing two copies of the data, each one to a different node. This is commonly referred to as Replication Factor 2 (RF2). The trouble is that if two HDDs fail in two different nodes in an RF2 environment, the result would be catastrophic data loss. For this reason, it is critical know how any hyperconverged vendor protects mission-critical data. Businesses should also find out how many nodes are required to minimize risk of data loss and what failure scenarios the vendor can handle without massive data loss.
Vendors claiming to offer hyperconverged platforms have also started to push the boundaries of what it means to persist a write. In an HPE SimpliVity environment, every system has an OmniStack Accelerator Card. This accelerator offloads all of the heavy lifting of data efficiency processing (deduplication, compression, and optimization) from the Intel CPUs in order to make as many resources as possible available for the business applications. It also accelerates writes by saving them to a DRAM buffer on the card. This DRAM buffer is protected by a bank of super capacitors that flush the DRAM to flash in the event of a power loss. To provide maximum data protection, writes from a guest VM are not acknowledged until the write has been saved into the OmniStack Accelerator Card on two different systems.
There are several ways that other vendors are putting customer data at risk. One is by acknowledging writes as soon as they are staged to host DRAM on two servers. This is incredibly dangerous, as a simple power loss on two nodes will trigger data loss. The guest VM will see the data as committed, but anything sitting in DRAM will be lost. This is a perfect example of what happens when a platform that was not designed to host mission-critical data is forced into a datacenter. It puts customer data at risk. One of my colleagues describes this as “eventually persistent” and I think it is very fitting. I also find it to be a terrifying concept for data protection.
The moral of the story is to ask questions about the hyperconverged platforms you are investigating. Unfortunately, not every vendor takes data protection as seriously, but the HPE SimpliVity 380 powered by Intel® is designed with OmniStack to protect mission-critical customer data.
To learn more about hyperconverged solutions, download the e-book: How Hyperconvergence Can Help IT.