Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Platform Diversity Leads to Strength in Numbers

When all you have in your toolkit is a single type of hammer, it’s little wonder that every workload starts to look like the same proverbial nail. That’s the case with vendors that give IT organizations the choice of only one hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) platform. They may have integrated compute and data storage onto a single platform, but, as is often the case with any platform, the devil is in the details.

At Dell EMC, we offer two distinct types of HCI platforms based on appliances and rack-based systems that uniquely address different customer requirements. Within the context of an IT environment where organizations have standardized on VMware, those two platforms manifest in the form of VxRack SDDC that unify compute, storage and networking and VxRail Appliances that unify compute and storage. Both of these platforms are co-engineered with VMware to provide higher levels of performance than any rival platform.

Explore the results of the Principled Technologies tests comparing Dell EMC VxRail to HPE HC 380. These materials include an infographic, video  and gated full report with the metrics and proof points from testing.

For example, VxRail outperforms rival HCI platforms when it comes to processing VMware workloads. In fact, a set of benchmarks conducted by a Principled Technologies show that, as the number of virtual machines deployed scales higher, the VxRail Appliances configured with VMware vSAN software can regularly process up to 50 percent more database transactions than a comparable HCI platform from HPE. Those same tests show that VxRail Appliances can deliver 22 percent more IOPs as well*.

These numbers are achieved not just because of the performance of the physical hardware. Working closely with VMware makes it possible for our customers to take advantage of capabilities, such as inline data duplication and compression, while at the same time attaching storage policies to each virtual disk to maximize IOP performance. Achieving similar levels of performance on any other HCI platform requires creating additional logical unit numbers (LUNs). In the case of the HPE offerings, an IT organization would have to create and manage as many as 86 LUNs to achieve what a VxRail Appliance can accomplish using one data store.

That capability translates itself into additional savings spanning everything from the number of appliances required to lower heating and cooling costs. In effect, VxRail requires half the physical space in a data center to store the same amount of data as an HCI appliance from HPE. The comparable savings on the number of VxRail Appliances that need to be acquired when compared to rival platform are nothing less than considerable because VxRail appliances scale out linearly from three to 64 nodes spanning thousands of virtual machines. Best of all, data replication, backup and cloud tiering are all included.

Of course, VMware represents only one private cloud stack, but it is the dominant platform in the enterprise today. IT organizations have spent years of time and effort mastering it. But some organizations may opt to embrace additional HCI platforms over time. The best part about working with Dell EMC is that we have expertise across industry leading stacks. Dell EMC also developed XC Series powered by Nutanix on Dell EMC PowerEdge servers. Beyond qualification of the solution, we have invested considerable time and effort in augmenting it with features for deployment, orchestration and ongoing management. XC Series appliances are best suited for customers requiring hypervisor choice, which may include Microsoft Hyper-V, and support a variety of specific use cases, ranging from typical enterprise business applications to VDI environments.

Whether it involves deploying systems running software from Nutanix, the open source OpenStack cloud management framework or the recently released Microsoft Azure Stack, platforms from Dell EMC that provide to common management framework serve to reduce both the total cost of acquiring multiple platforms as well as managing them across a hybrid cloud computing environment.

Dell EMC, unlike most of our rivals, is not simply bundling instances of software on top of a bare-metal server. We have made extensive firmware investments in improving the management experience across the lifecycle inclusive of services, support and deployment and tailoring the configurations to match HCI workloads. These are delivered within the HCI model of seamless operation for the customer providing an integrated trusted experience.  This is available across our offerings including VxRail Appliances, VxRack Systems and XC Series to cover a broad range of customer’s hypervisor requirements including VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V among others.  Regardless of the path chosen, Dell EMC is uniquely capable of not only supporting multiple stacks of software across a common base of  infrastructure, we work closely with our partners to make sure that software stack can seamlessly integrate with public clouds. Whether it’s an instance of VMware Cloud Foundation or Microsoft Azure, our investments in a common management plane for diverse hybrid cloud environments is unparalleled.

On top of that, our customers can leverage the financial muscle of Dell Technologies to consume that infrastructure either as a capital or operational expense. The days when organizations were forced to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars upfront to acquire modern infrastructure are over. They can now either buy equipment, or employ multiple OPEX models to acquire various types of platforms with no upfront payments required.


HCI platforms are the fastest growing segment of the data center market for good reason. They lower both the total cost of acquiring and flexibly deploying IT infrastructure in ways that were never possible before. But all HCI platforms are far from created equal. Depending on the nature of the workloads a VxRail Appliance can be twice as efficient as any rival HCI offering. As the number of VxRail Appliances scale out, the financial benefits afforded by that platform only start to compound.

Of course, HCI platforms don’t supersede every other class of platforms in the data center. There are plenty of instances when being able to scale compute, storage and networking resources independently of one another in a rack-based hyper-converged system such as VxRack Flex or VxRack SDDC makes more sense. But there’s also no denying that HCI platforms running everywhere from the branch office to deep inside the data center are now critical infrastructure. Viewed in that context, determining the robustness of the HCI platform is clearly one of the most strategic infrastructure decisions any IT organization is ever likely to make any time soon.

Visit DellEMC.com/CI for more information.

* Based on Principled Technologies report commissioned by Dell EMC, “Empower your databases with strong, efficient, scalable performance,” June 2017, comparing a similarly configured Dell EMC VxRail P470F vs. HPE Hyper Converged 380, using 50ms think time and 36 VMs. Actual performance will vary based on configuration, usage, and manufacturing variability.

About the Author: Trey Layton

Trey started his career in the US Military stationed at United States Central Command, MacDill AFB, FL. Trey served as an intelligence analyst focused on the Middle East and conducted support of missions in the first days of the war on terror. Following the military Trey joined Cisco where he served as an engineer for Data Center, IP Telephony and Security Technologies. Trey later joined the partner ecosystem where he modernized the practices of several national and regional partner organizations, helping them transform offerings to emerging technologies. Trey joined NetApp in 2004 where he contributed to the creation of best practices for Ethernet Storage and VMware integration. Trey contributed to the development of the architecture which became the basis for FlexPod. In 2010 Trey joined VCE, where he was promoted by Chairman & CEO, VCE, Michael Capellas to Chief Technology Officer, VCE. As CTO Trey was responsible for the product and technology strategy for Vblock, VxBlock, VxRack, Vscale and VxRail. During his tenure, VCE was recognized as one of the fastest technology companies to reach $1 Billion in revenues and one of the most successful joint ventures in IT history. The origional VCE products Trey has led strategy on continue to be leaders in their respective share categories around the world. In 2016 Trey was asked to lead from concept the development of an all Dell Technologies converged product. From that initial concept Trey led a global team of engineers to deliver Dell EMC PowerOne, the industry’s first autonomous infrastructure solution, embedding open source technologies which enable automated infrastructure integration based on declarative outcomes.