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VMware EVO:RAIL & the Fast Track to Machine Virtualization

By , Julio Urquidi - Source: Toms IT Pro

In partnership with several well-known hardware vendors, VMware introduced EVO:RAIL, a scalable 2U virtualization appliance that incorporates compute, storage and networking in a single 4-node hyper-converged package. Read: Notes from VMworld 2014

VMware's EVO:RAIL offers a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance (HCIA) consisting of a 100 percent VMware software stack pre-installed and configured on an appliance of the customers' choice from Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Supermicro, Inspur, or Net One Systems. VMware is looking to achieve global market outreach through its partnerships with hardware vendors in the US and in the far east. Software, hardware, and support provided by OEM partners are packaged as a single SKU creating a single point of contact for purchase and support.

Originally code named MARVIN by VMware (or Mystic by EMC), the company sees EVO:RAIL as a principle building block of the software defined data center (SDDC) that helps customers quickly deliver and scale their IT infrastructure while reducing costs. "We are bringing the simplicity of consumer appliances to the world of enterprise infrastructure," said Raghu Raghuram, executive vice president, Software-Defined Data Center Division at VMware.

The EVO:RAIL software bundle consists of:

  • EVO:RAIL Deployment, Configuration and Management;
  • vSphere 5.5 Enterprise Plus with ESXi for compute;
  • VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN);
  • vCenter Server Appliance.
  • vCenter Log Insight.

EVO:RAIL streamlines initial setup and configuration of the appliance. The EVO:RAIL management software has facilities to arrange and view all virtual machines through a modern HTML5 interface. New VMs can be created with a single click using small, medium, and large preset configurations. Compute management provides live health monitors for CPU, memory, storage, and VM usage. Optionally, users can still manage VMs through the vCenter Web Client.

Scaling out an EVO:RAIL implementation consists of powering up a new appliance to join an exisiting EVO:RAIL cluster, whereupon the configuration is automatically distributed to the new appliance with no additional configuration. EVO:RAIL management can check for software upgrades and patches then download and perform non-distruptive installations with zero downtime.

The basic configuration of the EVO:RAIL appliances will be similar across the different brands with the base hardware for the appliance being four independent server nodes within a 2U space which have at minimum:

  • Two Intel E5-2620 v2 six-core CPUs;
  • 192GB of memory;
  • One SLC SATADOM or SAS HDD as the ESXi boot device;
  • Three SAS 10K RPM 1.2TB HDD for the VMware Virtual SAN;
  • One 400GB MLC enterprise-grade SSD for read/write cache;
  • One Virtual SAN-certified pass-through disk controller;
  • Two 10GbE NIC ports;
  • One 1GbE IPMI port.

After software installation and configuration, the EVO:RAIL offers 13.1 TB of available storage. Informal testing has shown a single appliance as having the capacity to run 250 desktops and approximately 100 general-purpose server VMs. EVO:RAIL can scale to 4 appliances yielding 16 EXSi hosts, 1 Virtual SAN datastore backed by a single vCenter Server and EVO:RAIL instance.

Currently there are six hardware companies that were announced as EVO:RAIL manufacturers; Dell, Fujitsu, Supermicro and EMC in the US; Inspur and Net One Systems in Asia. The appliances come with a three year warranty, and support will be provided by the individual OEMs.

Supermicro EVO: Rail Appliance 2U TwinPro2Supermicro EVO: Rail Appliance 2U TwinPro2Briefly, here's what to expect from the US EVO:RAIL vendors:

  • Dell Engineered Solutions offers two versions of the EVO:RAIL: the Virtual Infrastructure Edition and the VMware Horizon View Edition, a version optimized for providing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
  • Fujitsu Integrated System Appliance for EVO:RAIL is based on the Fujitsu PRIMERGY CX400 rack server.
  • Supermicro announced its EVO:RAIL appliance, implemented on the Supermicro TwinPro2 Superserver, which the company says will support 100 general purpose virtual machines or up to 250 virtual desktop machines per appliance.
  • Though EMC doesn't currently have a named EVO:RAIL model at this time, the company plans to deliver a HCIA appliance in the first half of 2015 that will integrate with its hardware and software portfolio.

VMware EVO:RAIL will be available from partners starting in the second half of 2014 with pricing to be announcced by the OEMs.