For years I have been pitching ideas about how a performant, highly reliable architecture for the small and medium business market should be approached. Concepts like maintaining high reliability across all layers of the architecture, reducing the total number of points of failure whenever possible, reducing complexity, leveraging mirroring instead of parity for storage, keeping storage close to compute and so forth.
What I like about the Scale HC3 approach to hyperconvergence is that it addresses all of these items and more. Scale takes all of the components of a complete platform and reduces them into a singular “package” that is deployed to all nodes in the system making every layer of the system as redundant as all of the other layers. Even the management console itself is automatically replicated and available from every node in the cluster, independently!
Compute and storage are integrated into the same package sitting together on each node. This allows for the lowest latency in communications and the highest reliability both per node, as there is less to fail by way of having fewer moving parts, and also across the entire architecture by making each stable building block replicated so that nothing depends on any single node for computer, storage, management or orchestration.
Instead of the “traditional” approach so often associated with virtualization, where several layers of services are separate yet totally dependent upon each other, the Scale hyperconverged approach flattens these taking us to the opposite end of the spectrum from the infamous “inverted pyramid of doom” to a flat, broad “brick”. No single points of failure, no highly fragile components. Keep each component reliable on its own, then make them redundant anyway.
Digging down to the storage layer, the Scale HC3 uses a RAIN approach which can most easily be described as a “network RAID 1e” design. RAID 1e is an interesting twist on RAID 10 which basically adds a striping mechanism inside the mirrors so that you never have anything but mirroring but the mirrors are not at the disk level but at the block level and spread out among many disks. RAID 1e is more advanced and more flexible than RAID 10 and brings some minor performance and reliability advantages but, more importantly, allows a RAID 10 approach to be used effectively over a network without having to resort to the fragility of RAID 01. Scale does not use actual RAID, but true RAIN, that does intelligent block mirroring in the cluster with logic not only about drives, not about nodes on which the drives sit. We only use RAID as an example for comparison.
The Scale HC3 also adds powerful hybrid spinning disk and solid state drive tiering using a heat map approach to determining which blocks are being used regularly and which are predominantly idle. This allows the system to intelligently move blocks from slow spinning storage to high performance SSD for performance without needing all storage to sit on SSDs. This keeps cost down while also allowing for large capacity. The heat map approach, coupled with a simplistic priority management system, makes this nearly transparent to end users.
Scale also takes the management of a complicated beast like a full virtualization stack and makes it simple and easy for a small business IT department to manage. SMB IT departments are very busy places being pulled in a lot of simultaneous directions. It is very important that their solutions, especially the critical ones on which the most depends, are elegant, well supported, effective and easy to manage. Scale provides a solution that allows for growth, performance and high reliability while maintaining an astonishing degree of ease of use. Even an IT department with all of the resources and experience to manage the most complex and demanding infrastructure can benefit by not wasting time where there is no competitive advantage and, instead, putting their efforts to use where they can most benefit the business.
The Scale HC3 allows small and medium business IT departments to stop worrying about how to design a system to meet their needs, and instead focus on the what’s most important to their business and what provides them a unique, competitive advantage.
[Commissioned for the Scale Blog]