Kudos to Gartner for intellectual integrity and courage in the face of rapid and analytically puzzling evolutionary progression and pressure from incumbent leaders. However, this so-called Integrated Systems category—the subject matter of a new Magic Quadrant—is an already fading category. By integrated systems, I am referring to a collection of disparate products that were stitched together in a single container under common management. By definition, each of the stitched products were not originally intended to be part of a unified whole. This is a clever, rapid packaging/marketing response to the demand for simplification and cost reduction by enterprise customers (more on this later).
IT is headed in a direction whereby all of the IT Infrastructure functionality—and it consists of much more than just servers, storage, and VMware—will run on commodity x86 resources as a unified stack. This vision is far from what the Integrated Systems currently deliver. While analyzing the efficacy of various Integrated Systems (which I view as the first generation of convergence on the path to hyperconvergence), Gartner realized the emergence of the next two generations. Gartner demonstrated cognitive flexibility as well as intellectual integrity, and chose to present the emerging vendors, SimpliVity and Nutanix, in the Visionary category.
Importantly and impressively, Gartner recognized SimpliVity shortly after we launched our product. Among the companies recognized by Gartner on the MQ, SimpliVity is the latest company to launch a converged product. At the time of the MQ publishing, SimpliVity’s product was on the market for only 14 months. In contrast, and as a reference, Amazon Web Services launched in 2006. In the 2009 Gartner Magic Quadrant, 3 years after its launch, Amazon was still just in the Visionary quadrant.
Let’s not underestimate the intellectual integrity that is required by Gartner in order to recognize SimpliVity as a visionary. Though we strongly believe that SimpliVity’s OmniCube™ is the most complete and innovative product on the MQ, we also recognize that Gartner showed intellectual courage. The good news is that evolution eventually chooses the fittest, rather than the first, to arrive. SimpliVity is clearly not the first to market. However, in our humble opinion, it is the most complete to market. Please see the link below for the full report on Gartner’s MQ for Integrated Systems including SimpliVity.
Cloud Economics with Enterprise Functionality
Enterprises and their service providers want, or need, x86-based cloud economics with enterprise performance, protection, and functionality, plus global federated management. We are all inspired by the economics of cloud companies such as Amazon and Google, who presumably run their entire IT infrastructure atop x86 commodity servers, leveraging the software stack that they developed internally. When asked by their CEOs “why can’t we run our IT similarly?” enterprise CIOs legitimately respond that the needs of the enterprise are different. They refer to functionality, performance, and protection that is required by their applications and is currently delivered by a legacy stack comprised of some 12 products:
- Server virtualization,
- Storage switch,
- Primary storage (SAN or NAS),
- SSD arrays,
- SD caching,
- Backup-to-disk deduplication appliance,
- WAN optimization appliance,
- Cloud gateway that allows them to send workloads to public cloud providers,
- Backup application,
- VM specific backup application, and
- DR software applications.
I call the collection of the 12 products above: the Legacy Stack.
The Data Problem
Before we discuss the question of “how” to deliver such vast functionality in a unified x86-based stack, let’s address the question of “why.” Why is it that so many separate products are required in the first place? The culprit is the legacy data architecture, which evolved prior to server virtualization, prior to the emergence of the public cloud, and at a time when we still shipped 18GB disk drives versus today’s 3 or 6TB drives. Each of the 12 products were grossly over-provisioned in order to address their own peak workloads. They did not share surplus resources with each other. Their utilization is on average below 10 percent and each required a trained operator.
Re-examination of the list of products that make up today’s IT infrastructure stack reveal the fact that approximately 8 of the products fall into three categories:
Data efficiency: data compression, or deduplication, that was developed and deployed in order to address separate and distinct phases of the data lifecycle, primary SSD dedupe/compression, backup dedupe/compression, WAN dedupe/compression, access/gateway to the public cloud dedupe/compression, read-cache dedupe, etc.
Data protection: backup to tape, replication software, mirroring software, VM-centric backup applications, etc.
Performance: in the past 15 years, the density of hard disk drives increased almost 300 fold (from 18GB to 6TB). However, the RPM and commensurate IOPS have increased merely 1.5 fold. We are faced with much larger IOPS needs that cannot be delivered by HDD technology. The solution, thus far, has been SSD arrays or SSD drives in the server, in the primary storage array, in separate SSD arrays, etc.
If the root of the problem is in the antiquated data architecture, in order to fix the problem and simplify IT, the data needs to be handled differently.
SimpliVity’s architecture was focused from day one—September 2009—on solving the data problem as a means for assimilating the enterprise stack such that it can run on commodity x86 resources without compromising performance, protection, and functionality. In addition, it was designed to allow global federated management of all systems irrespective of their location. This required significant investment and a decision to prefer completeness over quickness to market. SimpliVity invested 3.5 years in order to complete a product that now delivers enterprise functionality, protection, and performance on x86 commodity servers—to deliver a product that introduces what we dub Convergence 3.0.
SimpliVity’s Data Virtualization Platform is the first and only platform that comprehensively and globally addresses the data problem. All data is deduped, compressed, and optimized at the origin, before the data written by applications ever hits the disk. By leveraging SimpliVity’s OmniStack Accelerator, data latency is minimized in comparison to standard storage (writes are persisted to NVRAM which is protected by supercapacitors), and performance is improved since IOPS are deduplicated. In other words, in addition to utilizing SSD for performance, SimpliVity reduces the redundant (duplicate) IOPS before they ever hit the disk. The efficiency that arises from the original deduplication/compression is maintained throughout the lifecycle of the data, across all tiers of storage—across primary, backup, WAN, archive, and cloud—everywhere, globally. In addition to the improved performance and reduced latency, the following benefits emerge: data protection, data mobility and migration, data management, and capacity optimization. The TCO of the legacy IT infrastructure stack is reduced 300% by OmniCube.
Path to Hyperconvergence
We are happy to see that in roughly 12 months from general availability Gartner has recognized SimpliVity as a Visionary. This is an impressive timeline when compared to other vendors and Magic Quadrants (i.e. ~36 months for Amazon AWS). Thank you, Gartner.
What enterprise customers and their service providers want/need is x86 cloud economics without compromising performance, protection, and functionality, while also introducing global federated management. Today, they use up to 12 separate products in order to meet their requirements. CAPEX and OPEX are extremely high with this legacy stack.
The category of Integrated Systems, which is the subject of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, was the first stage in the evolution towards IT Infrastructure simplification. Let’s refer to it as Convergence 1.0. It simplified the management of 5 of the 12 products (server, server virtualization, switch, primary storage, and SSD). While Integrated Systems offered part of the stack, they did not truly make it more efficient. Each of the “stitched-together” products were over-provisioned in order to address their own peak workload, and such products did not share surplus resources with “neighboring” products in the same stack and same data center. Further, each required extensive training and then was operated/managed from separate screens. However, with the emergence of more advanced technologies, Integrated Systems were already in a phase of disintegration. It was a temporary relief to a permanent problem. The same companies who introduced Integrated Systems are each now working on a separate next generation product. I think of such next generation offerings as Convergence 2.0.
Phase 2 in the evolution towards x86 Cloud Economics is what I call Convergence 2.0. It is an advanced assimilation of primary storage with server technology and clustered file-system. That is a step in the right direction. However, it does not and cannot encompass the 6-8 remaining Legacy Stack products for efficiency and protection. Those still need to be purchased separately and require separate training as well as separate management.
Version 3.0, which is true hyperconvergence, includes all 12 elements of the Legacy Stack. All are assimilated onto a unified software stack that runs atop commodity x86 resources, delivering to enterprises and their service providers x86 cloud economics with enterprise performance, protection, and functionality, including global federated management. This technology is based on the first and only solution to the data problem.
It has been SimpliVity’s thesis and reality that delivering such technology requires preference of completion over speed to market. The OmniCube, powered by the Data Virtualization Platform, has been in production for over a year and now our enterprise customers are benefiting from 300% TCO savings. The illustrations in this blog highlight the solution to the Legacy Stack challenge as well as the path to Convergence 3.0 delivered through the OmniCube hyperconverged infrastructure solution.