By Cobus Smit – 15 Jan 2020
What is Cisco’s Hyperflex HCI solution all about, and why has it gained so much attention since 2016?
Background on Cisco Hyperflex
HyperFlex has been in market since 2016 borne from Cisco’s relationship with SpringPath in 2017. According to Cisco, HyperFlex should deliver “Any Application across Any Cloud & Anywhere (Edge to Core Datacenter)”. The system comprises three or more Cisco HyperFlex HX-Series nodes to create a highly available cluster. Each node includes a Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform controller that implements the distributed file system. This is Cisco’s software defines storage solution and enhances the whole Cisco HCI solution a lot. HX Data Platform is using internal flash-based SSD drives and high-capacity HDDs or SSDs to store data. The controllers communicate with each other over 10/40 GbE to present a single pool of storage that spans the nodes in the cluster. Nodes access data through a data layer using file, block or object. When nodes are added, the cluster scales linearly to deliver computing, storage capacity, and I/O performance. Incoming data is distributed and optimized across nodes as well as storage tiers with data deduplication and compression, eliminating performance bottlenecks and achieving high IO performance. It is a good and reliable system with almost all components from Cisco.
Their current hardware as of Sept 2019
More on their product data sheets click here
Cisco’s virtual layer
You still require Hyper-V or VMware and Cisco depends on these virtualization technologies. Another good thing about Cisco is that they use their own software defined storage so you can use multiple hypervisors on their platform. With HX Data Platform you can also integrate into vSphere and take or schedule snapshots that is done on the SDS level. This is also a handy feature from Cisco and helped them rank up to one of the the top HCI vendors for 2019 so far…
A nice feature on HX220c M5 is the al NVMe Hyperflex solution. HyperFlex is also certified for SAP HANA on this software-defined storage solution. Cisco’s Intersight software-as-a-service cloud management platform that offers a central dashboard of HyperFlex operations is also a nice thing they have.
Cisco introduced a HyperFlex Acceleration Engine a while ago which takes some load of the standard CPU’s by offloading certain software operations like dedupe & compression to this card (this card is optional, so there are some additional costs).
HyperFlex customers are enjoying all in one support for Cisco’s networking, servers, storage, management and multi-cloud application life-cycle capabilities. Cisco HyperFlex comes with Intersight, a cloud-based SaaS platform that provides predictive failure analysis, proactive problem-solving and remote edge deployment and management for HyperFlex Edge.
Cisco and IBM
Recently the companies said they will work to develop a hybrid-cloud architecture that melds Cisco’s data-center, networking and analytics platforms with IBM’s cloud offerings. IBM’s contribution includes an emphasis on Kubernetes-based offerings such as Cloud Foundry and Cloud Private as well as a catalog of IBM enterprise software such as Websphere and open source software such as Open Whisk, KNative, Istio, and Prometheus.
Additionally, IBM said it would add support for its IBM Cloud Private, which manages Kubernetes and other containers, on Cisco HyperFlex and HyperFlex Edge HCI systems.
Cisco also extended its ACI (Application Centric) offering to allow on-prem security polices to translate into native AWS security groups, insuring that application security remains consistent between the private and public clouds. For Cisco, this was the only option for hybrid as Cisco HyperFlex HCI solution comes bundled with its own hardware.
Cisco will need to continue its hyper-converged R&D and rapid growth rate to compete with Dell EMC and Nutanix.
Customers on competing server suppliers cannot use their hardware to run the HX Data Platform, as Cisco has no software-only, hardware-independent offering and no server integration, partners.
If you are thinking of comparing someone like Nutanix with Hyperflex. Remember that Nutanix is almost only software as they moved into a software only solution back in 2017. If you compare it with VxRail or similar, then you would have to look at cost and business benefit for your company.
Cisco has a great solution here. I would just like to see them integrating their own or an open source virtualization platform. This will make them less dependent on VMware and Microsoft and will give them the change of overtaking Nutanix in the future. One thing that they have is an SDS solution and lots of other smaller HCI players do not have this. Cisco has done a lot in a short while with their HCI solution.