The hyper-converged infrastructure has two completely different ends of the spectrum when it comes to potential end-users. An example of two different systems positioned at different markets is a comparison between Nutanix and Scale Computing. Nutanix has a lion’s share of the mind share for the hyper-converged market. For companies looking to keep their operations cost low, hyper-converged systems are compelling options. Hyper-converged systems are combined storage and compute nodes that scale out both performance and capacity by adding additional nodes to a cluster. These systems leverage a proprietary software interface to the hardware. This allows hyper-converged systems to reduce the overall administrative burden.
As mentioned, Nutanix has most of the mind share in this landscape due to their positioning as a large scale solution that can displace an incumbent enterprise server and/or storage vendor. Nutanix has gotten big enough that they are routinely competing against the EMC, Hitachi’s and HP’s of the world from a storage perspective. Nutanix is also priced competitively with traditional enterprise storage and compute vendors. Likewise, the type of customer begins with a businesses that may be large enough to have dedicated storage engineers and goes up to large enterprises with teams of storage and server engineers. A target use case is an organization looking to streamline their operations by merging the two teams or eliminating a role such as the storage engineer all together. This is the high profile side of the market that garners most of the press and, therefore, mind share for hyper-converged systems.
Scale Computing is a hyper -converged hardware provider with a laser-like focus on the mid-market. I had the opportunity to speak with them at Storage Field Day 5 (SFD). SFDs are meant to give technical deep dives to subject matter experts. So, Scale spared us most of the marketing slides and went into deep details around the technical details of their solution. While positioned at the lower end of the market the solution has a great deal of engineering and value add over the commodity components used to build the hardware. I walked away impressed with the work put into developing the product.
On paper Scale doesn’t have the same large capacity as Nutanix but they serve a part of the market that Nutanix doesn’t really meet well. Unlike Nutanix’ tight integration with Hyper-V and VMware, Scale’s solution is built on an open source hypervisor which presents reduced capability but also reduces the cost significantly. The list price for their basic 3 node cluster that supports up to 100 “2 by 2” VM’s is $25,000. This can be the maintenance cost for comparable non-converged solutions. From an operations perspective, Scale is positioned at organizations that may not have a dedicated virtualization engineer much less a storage engineer. The complexity of the virtualization and storage subsystems are completely hidden from the customer.
While both Scale and Nutanix aim to bring convergence to the enterprise data center they serve the needs to two different customers. Both solutions are solid and well tested. Choosing between the two may be as simple as understanding which market you belong and your requirements for scale.