A guide to technology stack product bundles

Carol Sliwa, Senior Writer

Every major storage vendor has an integrated technology stack -- storage, server and networking products consisting of their own products or a combination of their own products and ones supplied by partners. In this SearchStorage.com Special Report, we’ve outlined a sampling of the major technology stacks that include storage. Our list includes a description, or overview, of each stack -- and then offers details on crucial information such as vendor support, and suitability for specific IT shops. Find out how each vendor stacks up when it comes to crucial decision points such as flexibility and management, and determine how simple -- or not -- each technology stack is to purchase and install. Our converged infrastructure product list begins with Dell vStart and covers seven major vendors in all.

Table of contents:

Dell vStart

DESCRIPTION:

Preassembled, preconfigured, pretested virtualization infrastructure.
 

COMPONENTS:

Servers: Dell PowerEdge
Virtualization: Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere
Storage: Dell EqualLogic SAN and Compellent
Network/switches: Dell PowerConnect and Force10
Dell power distribution and rack hardware
 

MANAGEMENT:

Dell element-level management software manages the hardware and integrates into existing VMware and Microsoft virtualization consoles. Software includes Dell Management plug-in for VMware vCenter, Dell OpenManage and Dell EqualLogic Host Integrated Toolkit. For customers who deploy a private cloud, Dell offers Virtual Integrated System (VIS) Creator, which runs on top of vStart and has functions such as self-service asset provisioning and auditing.
 

DEGREE OF FLEXIBILITY:

vStart is a locked-down configuration with Dell-only technology. It works with both VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization and is available in three sizes based on compute and storage capacity, as follows:
vStart 50: Aimed at small to mid-sized organizations. Includes two rack-mounted PowerEdge servers, one EqualLogic storage array with up to 7.2 TB of raw capacity and two pairs of PowerConnect switches.
vStart 100: Includes three rack-mounted PowerEdge servers, one EqualLogic storage array with 14.4 TB of raw capacity and two pairs of PowerConnect switches.
vStart 200: Includes six rack-mounted PowerEdge servers, two EqualLogic storage arrays with 28.8 TB of raw capacity, and two pairs of PowerConnect switches.
vStart 1000: Available with 8, 16, 24 or 32 PowerEdge M620 blade servers, two PowerEdge R620 rack-mounted management servers, Dell Compellent Series 40 storage starting with 31 TB, 58 TB, 89 TB or 115 TB of raw capacity, one Brocade 5100 top-of-rack Fibre Channel switch, two Dell Force10 top-of-rack S4810 switches and one Dell Force10 management switch.

INSTALLATION:

Dell racks, cables, configures and tests the components before shipping vStart to the customer site, where a Dell engineer does the final configuration work to make vStart production-ready.
 

SERVICE/SUPPORT:

Dell ProSupport includes round-the-clock chat, email and phone support and next-business-day onsite services, after a telephone-based troubleshooting and diagnostic assessment. Options include four-hour or mission-critical support and consulting and remote advisory services.
 

NOTES:

Dell offers reference architectures for customers with highly specific application or performance requirements. Dell vStart 200 is a validated offering in the Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track program.

EMC VSPEX

DESCRIPTION:

Tested reference architecture consisting of EMC storage and backup products plus server, virtualization and network technology from Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, Intel, Microsoft or VMware.
 

COMPONENTS:

Servers: Based on Intel processors
Server Virtualization: Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere
Desktop Virtualization: Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View
Storage: EMC VNX and VNXe
Network/switches: Brocade and Cisco
Backup and Recovery: EMC Avamar and Data Domain
 

MANAGEMENT:

Microsoft’s System Center or VMware’s vCenter Operations Management Suite provide a single point of management through tight linkage with Windows Server Hyper-V and VMware vSphere, respectively. Both integrate with EMC converged storage. EMC’s channel partners can also customize versions of VSPEX by adding management tools.
 

DEGREE OF FLEXIBILITY:

Customers must use EMC storage and backup products. They can choose Citrix, Microsoft or VMware virtualization technology. Plus, they have the option to choose the brand of network and server technology if it meets the requirements spelled out in the reference architecture. The initial announcement featured 14 VSPEX configurations. EMC’s reseller partners can customize the VSPEX infrastructure to meet a customer’s needs.
 

INSTALLATION:

EMC validates VSPEX infrastructure in its labs. EMC Velocity partners integrate and deploy VSPEX on-site for the customer.
 

SERVICE/SUPPORT:

Ongoing support is available through EMC’s partners or through EMC Collaborative Support Agreements via VSPEX component vendors.
 

NOTES:

Systems based on the VSPEX reference architectures are available only through EMC channel partners.

Hewlett-Packard VirtualSystem

DESCRIPTION:

Part of the HP Converged Systems portfolio, VirtualSystem is a pre-built, preconfigured and pretested turnkey converged storage virtualization system.
 

COMPONENTS:

Servers: HP ProLiant and HP Integrity Superdome
Virtualization: Citrix, Microsoft and VMware
Storage: HP P4000 SAN and HP 3PAR
Network/switches: HP 5000 Series and HP ProCurve
 

MANAGEMENT:

HP Insight Control systems management software integrates into Microsoft System Center and VMware vCenter consoles.
 

DEGREE OF FLEXIBILITY:

Customers can choose from the following options:

VirtualSystem VS1: Designed to support up to 750 virtual machines (VMs). Targeted at medium enterprise. Base, extended and midline configuration options are available.
Includes:
HP ProLiant DL380/DL360 G7 rack-mount servers
Virtualization: Microsoft or VMware software
HP P4500 SAN storage system
HP 5000 Series switches
HP Insight Control management
HP Thermal Logic energy/power optimization technology

VirtualSystem VS2/CV2: Designed to support up to 2,500 VMs. Targeted at large enterprises. Includes Insight Control and Thermal Logic. Base, extended and midline configuration options are available.
Includes:
HP BladeSystem c7000 Enclosure
HP ProLiant BL460c G7 server blades
HP P4800 SAN for BladeSystem Storage System
HP 5000 Series/Virtual Connect switches
Server virtualization: Microsoft or VMware software
Client virtualization: Citrix or VMware software

VirtualSystem VS3: Designed to support up to 6,000 VMs. Targeted at large enterprises and service providers. Includes Insight Control and Thermal Logic. Base, extended and midline configuration options are available.
Includes:
HP BladeSystem c7000 Enclosure
HP ProLiant BL460c G7 server blades
HP 3PAR F-series Storage system
HP 5000 Series, B-Series FC/Virtual Connect switches
Server virtualization: Microsoft or VMware software

VirtualSystem VS MC1: Designed for demanding, mission-critical environments. Meets pre-defined service-level agreements.
Includes:
HP Integrity Superdome 2 Server hardware
HP-UX 11i v3 Virtual Server Environment OE
HP 3PAR SAN (F400) storage
HP ProCurve 6120 switches
 

INSTALLATION:

HP builds and configures VirtualSystem through its worldwide Factory Express sites. An HP consultant installs the system onsite and integrates it into the customer’s environment. HP Services is optional to speed deployment.
 

SERVICE/SUPPORT:

HP Support is the single point of contact for all components, including servers, storage, networking and third-party software. VirtualSystem comes with three years of support. A range of support service levels is available. HP Technology Services can consult on strategy, design and implementation.
 

NOTES:

VirtualSystem is based on best-practice recommendations from HP, Microsoft, VMware and Citrix engineering. HP offers compliance with the Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track program.

Hitachi Unified Compute Platform (UCP)

DESCRIPTION:

Pre-racked, converged infrastructure in a standard data-center enclosure with compute, storage, network and software components.
 

COMPONENTS:

Servers/Compute: Hitachi Compute Blade
Storage: Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP), Hitachi Universal Storage Platform V and VM
Network/switches: Brocade
 

MANAGEMENT:

Customers manage UCP via an integrated user interface that Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) developed. The UCP management rack includes all necessary software from HDS and Microsoft. The software bundle is integrated with the UCP management rack to provide users the ability to administer the entire stack as a single entity. Also, HDS UCP management software is integrated with Microsoft's System Center Operations Manager to provide management and process orchestration for a collective group of assets (storage, server, networking) as business resource pools.
 

DEGREE OF FLEXIBILITY:

Hitachi’s VSP storage virtualization supports the use of third-party storage systems. But Hitachi acknowledged that UCP supports only Hitachi Compute Blade 2000 servers, Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization and Brocade switches. HDS claims that it’s evaluating the possible inclusion of additional supported servers, hypervisors and network technology, but it has not specified a date. Customers wishing to stray from the standard configuration can opt for a “services-led engagement.”
 

INSTALLATION:

Engineers configure and test Hitachi UCP at distribution centers following predefined plans. The same testing plans are used at the customer site at the time of installation. Also, HDS professional services pre-integrates the UCP management rack to ensure arrival at the customer's site with the essential components preconfigured.
 

SERVICE/SUPPORT:

Hitachi Global Service and Support provides direct support for UCP and the hypervisor. If necessary, HDS and Microsoft partner to resolve especially thorny problems. Trained and certified system integration partners are another option for customers.
 

NOTES:

Hitachi offers a Converged Platform for Exchange 2010 and a reference architecture for a technology stack infrastructure based on Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track.

IBM PureFlex System

DESCRIPTION:

IBM PureFlex System combines servers, storage, networking, virtualization and management into a single technology stack.
 

COMPONENTS:

Computer/Server Nodes: IBM Flex System with Intel or Power7 processors
Virtualization: KVM, PowerVM, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere
Storage: IBM Storwize V7000
Network/Switches: IBM Flex System Fabric Scalable Switch modules for Ethernet. PureFlex also supports Fibre Channel (8 Gb and 16 Gb) and InfiniBand (FDR) switches
 

MANAGEMENT:

Each system ships with integrated management software. IBM Flex System Manager provides consolidated monitoring and management of physical and virtual compute, storage, networking, virtualization and energy resources and automates repetitive tasks. PureFlex System Express includes Flex Systems Manager with one year of service and support. PureFlex System Standard and Enterprise configurations ship with Flex Systems Manager Advanced with three years of service and support. Through standards-based interfaces, IBM PureSystems can work with broader enterprise service management tools such as IBM’s Tivoli.
 

DEGREE OF FLEXIBILITY:

PureFlex System has IBM hardware but offers several operating system and virtualization options. Customers have a choice of three PureFlex System configurations: Express (for small and medium businesses), Standard (optimized for application servers) and Enterprise (designed for transactional and database systems). IBM Storwize V7000 enables virtualization of more than 130 storage products, including storage from IBM (such as XIV, DS8000 and DS5000) as well as third-party vendors (such as EMC and NetApp). IBM Storwize V7000 comes with one year of software maintenance in the Express edition and three years in the Standard and Enterprise versions.
 

INSTALLATION:

IBM builds, configures, integrates and tests PureSystems before shipment.
 

SERVICE/SUPPORT:

IBM is the single point of contact for support and upgrades.
 

NOTES:

IBM PureSystems currently has two offerings: PureFlex System infrastructure (servers, storage and networking) and PureApplication System (a software stack for Web, database and Java applications). The IBM Flex System compute nodes and switches are new designs created especially for PureSystems. The PureFlex System 42U rack is about the size of a refrigerator.

NetApp FlexPod

DESCRIPTION:

Pre-validated, pre-integrated reference architecture for building a technology stack; jointly developed by Cisco and NetApp.
 

COMPONENTS:

Compute/Servers: Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS)
Storage: NetApp FAS
Network/Switches: Cisco Nexus
 

MANAGEMENT:

FlexPod combines NetApp OnCommand storage management with Cisco UCS Manager and Nexus network management. Orchestration integration is an option with Microsoft System Center or VMware’s vSphere. APIs provide the opportunity to integrate with third-party or custom management tools. CA, Gale and Cloupia are FlexPod validated management partners. Other partners include BMC, Dynamic Ops, Microsoft and VMware.
 

DEGREE OF FLEXIBILITY:

Customers can choose variable sizes of FAS storage components, UCS servers and Nexus networking components, but they’re limited to using NetApp and Cisco products. Validated workloads and designs include: Entry-level FlexPod, FlexPod with Microsoft Private Cloud, VMware vSphere built on FlexPod, Red Hat Enterprise Linux built on FlexPod and Enhanced Secure Multi-Tenancy. Other use cases documented in the design guide include Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange 2010, Microsoft Applications, Oracle, SAP, Red Hat and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, using VMware View or Citrix XenDesktop.
 

INSTALLATION:

Cisco and NetApp engineers validate and test designs for specific workloads in a lab setting and document them in Cisco’s validated design guide. Distributors and channel partners order components based on a reference bill of materials. Partners sell, assemble, test, configure and integrate FlexPod for a specific workload or design. Partners have the option to use FlexPod services from Avnet rather than do the work themselves.
 

SERVICE/SUPPORT:

Cisco and NetApp cooperate on support, with VMware when appropriate. Customers can contact the responsible vendor if they’ve isolated the problem, or either vendor if they’re not sure. The vendors maintain a cooperative support lab to resolve complex issues.
 

NOTES:

FlexPod can be used in virtualized or non-virtualized environments. It was developed specifically with channel partners in mind. Cisco and NetApp developed technical sizing, implementation and validation guides specifically for partners.

VCE Vblock

DESCRIPTION:

Pre-built, pre-integrated, pretested converged infrastructure system with components from Cisco, EMC and VMware.
 

COMPONENTS:

Compute/Servers: Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) Blade Server Chassis, Cisco UCS B-Series blades
Virtualization: VMware ESXi and vCenter Server
Storage: EMC VNX or Symmetrix VMAX/VMAXe
Network/Switches: Cisco Nexus virtual switch, Cisco Nexus Ethernet switches or Cisco MDS fabric/director switches (Fibre Channel)
Optional:
Backup and recovery: EMC Avamar and Data Domain
Replication/Continuous Data Protection (CDP): EMC RecoverPoint
Business Continuity/workload mobility: EMC VPLEX
 

MANAGEMENT:

Vblock works with standard Cisco and EMC management tools. Customers can also use VMware management and integrate their existing management software. EMC Ionix Unified Infrastructure Manager (UIM) software manages configuration, provisioning and compliance. An Advanced Management Pod (AMP) hardware option can centralize management of Vblock components.
 

DEGREE OF FLEXIBILITY:

Customers must choose Cisco servers and switches, VMware virtualization and EMC storage. They cannot substitute products from other vendors. Flexibility lies in the selection of compute performance, networking bandwidth and storage capacity and performance. Vblock Data Protection is an optional element. Choices include:

Vblock Series 300:
Servers: Cisco UCS 5108 Blade Server Chassis, Cisco UCS B-Series blades.
Virtualization: VMware ESXi, vCenter Server.
Storage: EMC VNX Series unified storage.
Network: Cisco Nexus 1000V Series virtual switch, Cisco Nexus 5548 Series IP switches, Cisco MDS 9148 Series storage switches (Fibre Channel).

Vblock Series 700 Model LX:
Servers: See Series 300.
Virtualization: VMware ESX/ESXi, vCenter Server.
Storage: EMC Symmetrix VMAX. (Optional: EMC VNX VG2 or VG8 Gateway; Symmetrix Data at Rest Encryption).
Network: Cisco MDS 9148 Multilayer Fabric Switch, Cisco Nexus 1000V VSM and VEM virtual switch. (Optional: Cisco Nexus 5548UP Series Ethernet switches, Cisco Nexus 7010 switch, Cisco MDS 9506 or 9513 Multilayer Director).

Vblock Series 700 Model MX:
Compute/Servers: Cisco UCS 5108 Blade Server Chassis, Cisco UCS B-Series blades, Cisco virtual interface card, fabric extenders and fabric interconnects.
Virtualization: VMware ESX/ESXi and vCenter Server.
Storage: EMC Symmetrix VMAX. (Optional: EMC VNX VG2 or VG8 Gateway; EMC Symmetrix Data at Rest Encryption).
Network: Cisco MDS 9148 Multilayer Fabric Switch, Cisco Nexus 1000V VSM and VEM virtual switch. (Optional: Cisco Nexus 5548UP Series Ethernet switches, Cisco Nexus 7010 switch, Cisco MDS 9506 or 9513 Multilayer Director).

Vblock Data Protection
Backup/recovery: EMC Avamar and EMC Data Domain.
Replication/CDP: EMC RecoverPoint
Business continuity/mobility: EMC VPLEX.
 

INSTALLATION:

VCE assembles, configures and tests each system and ships it as a single, pre-tested product. Full lifecycle support includes ongoing roadmap planning, feature upgrades, software updates and patch management.
 

SERVICE/SUPPORT:

VCE is the single point of contact for support, and VCE engineers are trained in virtualization, networking, computing, orchestration and storage. Support engineers can directly escalate issues to Cisco, EMC and VMware, if necessary.
 

NOTES:

Cisco and EMC formed the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Co. with investments from Intel and EMC’s VMware division. VCE has tested and validated Vblock infrastructure platforms with many major applications, including Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, Oracle RAC, SAP and VMware View.