Trend Hyperconvergence: Cisco HyperFlex

    Modern enterprises are increasingly faced with tasks for which traditional servers and storage can no longer serve as the ideal solution. Cisco HyperFlex Hyper-Converged Infrastructure enables the computing platform, virtual machines, and storage to be combined into a single distributed infrastructure.
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    Since the advent of the first data centers, the main components of the data center have been the server farm, the data storage network, and the local area network. The latter combined the first two elements into a workable system.

    After the spread of virtualization, data centers began to constitute a platform consisting of virtualized servers, network devices and storage systems. Since there was a need to provide physical and virtual servers access to data equally, the requirements for storage systems increased significantly, because now not a dozen servers, but several hundred virtual machines could be connected to the storage system. As a result, storage systems have evolved into virtualized hardware and software storage. In addition, there was a need for virtualization of switches to support different protocols, channels, subnets, priorities and speeds on a single device. The resulting architecture combined various types of equipment, communication protocols and operating systems, called convergent.

    However, hardware-based virtualized storage systems nevertheless continued to remain just a set of hardware - controllers and disk shelves connected to them, operating under the direction of the operating system. Such an OS can be “packaged” into a virtual machine by running it on the main server, and the storage system itself can be placed on it as another service VM - the multicore and power of modern processors allows this. Moreover, such a storage system will provide not only the functionality of the storage system, but will also allow you to organize storage on a group of servers. Combining all this with a local network will also not be difficult - Ethernet at a speed of 10 Gb / s is today the standard for a corporate network, and many enterprises are beginning to introduce 40 and 100 Gb / s channels.

    All this led to the emergence of so-called hyperconverged solutions. Such platforms are no longer just a server, but a mini-data center in which resources are distributed between applications and users with a high degree of flexibility. This is exactly what Cisco Hyperflex represents. Let's see what it is.

    What is in the package?

    As already mentioned, the center of the data center consists of three large subsystems: computing, switching and storage. As the fourth element, management should be added to this list. The first subsystem in HyperFlex is represented by UCS C220 or UCS C240 ​​servers. To increase computing power, it can be expanded through a chassis with blade servers, to increase storage space - add a standard storage system.

    The network component includes a pair of switches based on the Nexus virtualized “converged” switch - UCS Fabric Interconnect 62xx. This solution is universal, since it supports any protocol (IP / FC / FCoE / iSCS), in addition, it includes a Cisco UCS Manager management system with a free license, which provides extensive management capabilities for servers and their network part.

    As for the storage system, disks, the main element of any data storage, are located directly in the servers (nodes) that make up the platform. Storage is virtualized and has almost all the functions that are required of modern data warehouses in information infrastructures. At the same time, it is managed as one of the objects in the VMware vSphere virtualization environment. It is also worth noting that the VMware vSphere ESXi 6.0 hypervisor is already preinstalled on all HyperFlex nodes. In fact, to manage the entire organization system, it’s enough to have an entry-level VMware specialist.

    As a result, implementing the Cisco HyperFlex solution, the customer receives a full-fledged data center "out of the box", the configuration of which can be started from just three nodes. At the same time, the user immediately has a storage system distributed over the same nodes, which gives rather high performance indicators based on test results. It is important that such a virtualized cluster requires the organization of a 10 or 40-gigabit LAN, which does not always exist in the infrastructure of organizations. A pair of universal UCS Fabric interconnect switches ensure high network performance and the correct operation of a distributed storage system.

    Features of scaling

    However, with today's dynamic development of the IT industry, sooner or later the company will face a lack of resources and the need to scale the existing infrastructure. In the case of Cisco HyperFlex, everything is quite simple.

    With a lack of computing resources, you just need to buy up to 768 GB of memory - these are 24 slots in both the HX220s and the HX240s. You can also connect the UCS5108 chassis, which makes it possible to get another 8 blade servers in a common resource pool. The problem of lack of disk space is solved by installing another HX240c node up to 24 disks, which will simultaneously increase disk space, memory, and the number of processors for virtual machines. That is, it is possible to increase the solution both by critical characteristics, and comprehensively, expanding the cluster. The latter option is especially convenient, since new nodes arrive at the customer’s site in a prepared form and the existing HyperFlex cluster automatically recognizes the new node and turns it on. No special action is required from the solution administrator.

    In the case when virtual machines require a lot of space or they have the task of making backups to the old hardware storage, you can connect the classic storage system of any manufacturer using the 1- or 10-gigabit NFS / CIFS / iSCSI / protocol to a pair of convergent UCS Fabric Interconnet switches FCoE or Fiber Channel Software.

    The foundation for data centers

    In the event that just a “data center out of the box” is no longer enough, and you need a full-fledged data center with classic infrastructures, Cisco HyperFlex also allows you to save investment - after all, a number of necessary components are already available. For example, the nodes of the HX2XX series are UCS-C-series servers, which are easily integrated into the data center. Nexus 6200 interconnects are also used in a full-sized data center, and UCS Manager allows you to serve up to 160 physical servers and / or storage systems with any connection protocol.

    Disk space located on the virtual storage as part of HyperFlex may be available to other platforms.

    In addition, do not forget about such a factor as free space in the server room, which is far from always possible to expand. For installation in an existing rack, the blade chassis will also have to work hard, swapping equipment and cabling. And for the implementation of HyperFlex in the rack you will need only 5 units - one for each of the three nodes and two for interconnects. An even more serious solution with HX 240c nodes will require only 8 RU. It is worth noting that the units do not have to be arranged in a row - the main thing is to connect the nodes to the interconnect factory, and the nodes themselves can be “scattered” around the data center, taking up 1 or 2 U where there is space.

    In conclusion

    Based on the foregoing, Cisco HyperFlex will be a good choice for companies starting to implement a comprehensive IT infrastructure. Especially this solution should be paid attention to organizations that plan to implement as soon as possible and at the same time do not have a huge IT department. Installing HyperFlex on just 3 servers allows you to organize a full 10-gigabit IP and FC infrastructure and provide data center management. The system will become the core of the data center, including due to the capabilities of Fabric Interconnect.

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