HPE SimpliVity Is Hyper-Simplicity

by Paul Ferrill

HPE's new SimpliVity 380 combines a hardware add-in board and the industry-leading HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen9 into a hyper-converged workhorse that delivers both performance and simplicity in spades.

One of the key differentiators made by a large majority of the new wave of IT innovators is in how they bring simplicity to the complexities of the legacy data center. With the acquisition of SimpliVity earlier this year, HPE proceeded to deliver a rebranded version of their technology in short order.

In fact, they did it by shipping the first HPE branded SimpliVity product just 73 days after the acquisition closed. HPE recently provided us with a hands-on look of the new HPE SimpliVity 380 at their Boston facilities.HPE SimpliVity 380

HPE describes the architecture of the SimpliVity Data Virtualization Platform as "a globally aware file system and object store with data optimization techniques and data services." Always-on data deduplication and compression in HPE SimpliVity 380 design enables consistent performance across the board. The total solution combines a hardware add-in board and the industry-leading HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen9 into a hyper-converged workhorse.

Simplification alone is great, but if it comes at the cost of performance it probably won't get a hearing in most IT organizations today. The HPE SimpliVity 380 delivers both and does so in spades. In-line deduplication reduces the overall amount of I/O required to store data on disk, while compression reduces the size of the data blocks that must be written to disk, further reducing the I/O bandwidth. Couple this with the HPE OmniStack software and you have a fully integrated solution to handle any VMware vSphere workload.

Hardware Special Sauce

The founders of SimpliVity saw an opportunity from the early days of the company to deliver a product that combines hardware and software running on x86 servers. On the hardware side the special sauce was a PCIe device, now called the HPE OmniStack accelerator card, that offloaded the compression and deduplication functions in much the same way as TCP offload devices accelerate network traffic. This approach takes a significant amount of the computation burden off the primary host CPU and reduces the amount of I/O operations required.

The HPE SimpliVity 380 uses a globally aware file system and an object store to write the compressed and deduplicated data to disk. This architecture adds a layer of abstraction on top of the underlying hardware and makes it possible to create time-based copies. It also facilitates moving VMs and data from one system to another anywhere in the world. Full details of the HPE SimpliVity 380 architecture is described in this HPE white paper.

Choices abound for the basic HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen9 platform with a wide range of disk, processor, memory and networking options. HPE recommends minimum configurations to include at least 256 GB of memory and two nodes in order to realize all the benefits of high availability.

Three options for an all-flash deployment provide 9.6, 17.28 and 23.04 TB of capacity, respectively. Processor options start with the 8-core Intel E5-2620v4 and go up to the 22-core E5-2699v4. Memory is expandable up to 1.536 TB using 64 GB DIMMs.

HPE SimpliVity 380 Software Integration

At the software management level Simplivity made a conscious decision to integrate with the VMware vCenter Server product. This design plays to the large population of system administrators already familiar with VMware and the management of their virtual infrastructure. The current version supports vCenter 6.0 and 6.5.

HPE SimpliVity 380 - Figure 1
HPE SimpliVity 380 - Figure 1
(Click for larger image)

Following the simplicity theme, SimpliVity made common practices like the cloning of VMs a simple two-click operation (see Figure 1). While some basic assumptions, such as the target datastore and host based on the original VM, may restrict this to a reduced number of situations, it does meet the need of the vast majority of clone operations.

HPE SimpliVity 380 - Figure 2
HPE SimpliVity 380 - Figure 2
(Click for larger image)

At the top level, the HPE SimpliVity vCenter plugin provides a dashboard (see Figure 2) showing the uncompressed and non-deduped data along with the overall savings delivered by both techniques. Figure 3 shows the Search Backups dialog, which provides a way to quickly filter a large backup repository to find the file of interest based on multiple query fields.

HPE SimpliVity 380 - Figure 3
HPE SimpliVity 380 - Figure 3
(Click for larger image)

It's also important to point out here that SimpliVity uses backups where other solutions might use a snapshot. Figure 4 shows the backup dialog including the restore files option, providing access to individual files within a backup.

HPE SimpliVity 380 - Figure 4
HPE SimpliVity 380 - Figure 4
(Click for larger image)

Bottom Line

HPE offers twenty-five pre-configured SKUs for the SimpliVity 380 product, starting out at $26K. It's also possible to customize your HPE 380 based on specific needs. At this point in time the HPE SimpliVity 380 management happens using the vCenter plug-in. Integration with HPE's OneView product would be an obvious next step but hasn't been officially announced.

Comparisons to other products like VMware VSAN are difficult at best due to the totally different architecture and implementation of the two offerings. The HPE Simplivity 380 requires only two nodes for full high availability and data protection while a typical VSAN deployment requires three nodes.

It is possible to operate a VSAN cluster with only two nodes, but it's not the recommended method. HPE also offers their StoreVirtual VSA product as a software-only alternative, but you wouldn't get the benefits of the OmniStack accelerator card.

Paul Ferrill, based in Chelsea, Alabama, has been writing about computers and software for almost 20 years. He has programmed in more languages than he cares to count, but now leans toward Visual Basic and C#.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Nov 8th 2017
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