Mid-sized companies can reduce cost and complexity with a datacenter-in-a-box

Small to mid-sized companies typically don’t have the budgets and the highly skilled IT people to support a sophisticated datacenter infrastructure. But new hyper-converged systems allow these companies to deploy a modern virtualized infrastructure at a low cost and with the general IT skills already on staff.

When it comes to IT, mid-sized companies are often at a disadvantage compared to much larger enterprises. These companies, which typically have less than a thousand employees, still have similar application needs as large companies, but often lack the budget and skilled IT workers to deploy and manage the modern computing systems needed to support the apps.

Cloud computing is certainly a great equalizer, as any size company can get sophisticated applications from the cloud. However, not every type of application or data is suitable for a public cloud. Private healthcare records, for example, or sensitive financial information aren’t well suited to going into a public cloud. Small to mid-sized companies that want to deploy a private cloud are challenged by the cost, complexity and dearth of high end IT skills.

New hyper-converged datacenter-in-a-box solutions fill this need for the mid-sized market. This type of system, also known as a virtual computing infrastructure (VCI), integrates hardware and software components into a single consumable IT system. In his recent article “Pick your hardware vision: Open Compute Project vs. 'data centers in a box',”  Brandon Butler says VCI is a trend in the IT hardware market that is gaining momentum. He says these systems reduce complexity and allow for easy scale-up.

Scale Computing is aiming squarely at mid-sized companies with HC3, a turnkey datacenter-in-a-box that encompasses a complete infrastructure. Everything that’s needed to build a private cloud is included in the single appliance: servers, storage, networking, virtualization, redundancy, and management software. The HC3 virtualization platform was purpose built from the ground up to simplify and lower the cost of virtualization for companies with limited IT resources.

In fact, the system is designed so it can be deployed and managed by an IT generalist. This is quite different from other IT systems that require IT professionals with deep knowledge in servers, storage and virtualization. Scale Computing says a mid-sized company that only has a few IT people can deploy a modern virtualized infrastructure that can grow with the company.

Scale Computing leverages commodity hardware and intelligent software to get high performance at a lower cost. The big differentiator is HC3’s virtualization is based on KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) rather than VMware, which eliminates the need for virtualization software licensing and keeps costs down.

Scale Computing’s engineers have focused on building in features that make the system as easy as possible to configure and manage. For example, a web portal enables the administrator to leverage HC3’s OneTouch Provisioning and Configuration features, which allow for the deployment of VMs in just minutes. Scale Computing’s own Intelligent Cluster Operating System (ICOS) software is the intelligence behind the OneTouch features. ICOS brings the resources of compute and storage together to allow their provisioning in an automated manner. ICOS is able to determine where the VMs can be placed based on the needs of an application.

The system is architected so that every VM created on HC3 is automatically made highly available. In the event of a node failure, VMs on that node will automatically failover to the other nodes in the system without manual intervention.

The system was also built for scalability. A customer can buy only the capacity that it needs today and scale up later by adding additional nodes. This eliminates the traditional approach of over provisioning and leaving a percentage of the capacity completely unused in anticipation of future growth.

The basic HC3 configuration starts as a three node system that includes 96GB of RAM, three Quad Core Intel CPUs and either six 1Gb ports or 6 10Gb network ports. The storage resources include 12 SATA drives that provide 6 to 24TB RAW storage capacity. This basic unit can support from 15 to 30 virtual workloads Additional hardware can be added to increase the number of nodes to 4, 6 or 8. At the top end of the HC3 model, the 8 node system can support 256GB of RAM, 8 Quad Core Intel CPUs, and 16 1Gb or 16 10 Gb ports. Storage resources can max out at 32 SATA drives providing 16 to 64TB RAW storage. An HC3 unit configured for the maximum capacity can support 60 to 100 virtual workloads.

Scale Computing also has an HC3x model that comes in configurations of 3, 4, 6 or 8 nodes. The HC3x models support roughly double the capacity of the corresponding HC3 models.

Scale Computing’s HC3 datacenter-in-a-box system is designed to help mid-sized companies save money in several ways. First, the cost of the complete infrastructure is lower than alternative solutions because the servers, storage, networking and virtualization are all integrated into one box. The system uses commodity hardware and Linux based KVM, eliminating the need for licensing. Second, it costs less to own and operate because a company can buy just the capacity that it needs at the time. And because configuration and management are highly automated, the staffing requirements to maintain the system are far less than other virtualized environments. It’s possible for an IT generalist to oversee daily operations.

Linda Musthaler is a Principal Analyst with Essential Solutions Corporation.  You can write to her at LMusthaler@essential-iws.com.

About Essential Solutions Corp:  Essential Solutions (http://www.essential-iws.com) researches the practical value of information technology, and how it can make individual workers and entire organizations more productive.  Essential Solutions offers consulting services to computer industry and corporate clients to help define and fulfill the potential of IT.  

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