Startup Cloudistics has launched a new hyperconverged infrastructure product to compete with the likes of Nutanix, Simplivity, and Cisco HyperFlex. The company is partnering with Pica8, whose network OS runs the hardware switch in the Cloudistics appliance.
Cloudistics integrates compute, storage, and networking into a single form factor and wraps it in software to present a completely virtualized appliance for enterprise workloads. It currently supports the KVM hypervisor to run virtualized applications.
The infrastructure includes a Dell switch running Pica8. The switch has 48 10GbE ports and 6 40GbE ports, or 72 10GbE ports in breakout mode. The compute layer is build on the Dell FX2 chassis with quarter-width nodes. Each nodes runs two multi-core Intel Xeons. The all-flash storage comes in a 2U chassis and can support up to 32 drives. Raw drive capacity ranges from 500GB to 4TB per drive.
Note that Cloudistics positions itself as “superconverged,” which the company says is the next generation of “hyperconverged.” I’ll leave it to the market to decide if the company merits a brand new category. In the meantime, I’m sticking with hyper.
Cloudistics says it differentiates itself in a couple of ways. First, while the hardware and workloads runs on a customer’s premises, the device is managed via a cloud-based controller. Cloudistics says this reduces management costs and makes it easier to manage multiple appliances, particularly in different geographical regions.
Administrators can monitor and manage compute, storage, and networking from the controller. If a customer adds a new compute blade to the chassis, the controller identifies it and adds it to the resource pool.
The company also offers an applications marketplace where customers can download software to run on the appliance, including Docker, Hadoop, Hortonworks, and Windows and Linux OSs.
Other converged startups are also relying on cloud management. For instance, Igneous Systems operates on-premises infrastructure as a service; the hardware lives in the customer’s data center, but Igneous handles infrastructure monitoring and maintenance from the cloud on the customer’s behalf.
A Network Advantage?
Second, Cloudistics touts its network virtualization technology as a competitive advantage. Dr. Jai Menon, Chief Scientist at Cloudistics, said in an interview that networking has become the hardest part to manage in a hyperconverged infrastructure.
“There’s too much use of manual CLIs, it’s hard to create VLANs to give to different apps,” he said.
By contrast, Cloudistics set out to make networking as simple as possible. “In our solution, you have network virtualization built in along with virtual compute and virtual storage.”
Cloudistics doesn’t use encapsulation protocols such as VXLAN to virtualize the network. Instead, it uses a form of address substitution at the IP layer to keep track of physical and logical addresses.
“Rather than add a header to the packet which extends the packet header bytes, we do a substitution technique where one address is substituted for another with a few lookups in hash tables,” he said.
“You can do network virtualization without the complexity of encapsulation and software routing, both of which are CPU-intensive. That’s a lot of our value proposition.”
Dr. Menon declined to offer more details about its network virtualization technology. There’s a tradeoff in taking a unique approach to virtual networking. It may provide some advantage over competitors, but it may also raise eyebrows among potential customers. I’d like to hear more about it to get a better sense of how much of a risk Cloudistics is taking.
Menon did say that Pica8 was a key to its networking platform. “We looked at other NOSs, and Pica8 was clearly a leader. Others might become available in the future, but Pica8’s L2/L3 stack and OpenFlow support made them our choice.”
The product also includes virtualized network functions including distributed firewalls, load balancers, DHCP and NAT. Administrators can set fine-grained policies to isolate networks and traffic using the cloud-based controller.
Window Of Opportunity
Earlier this month, Nutanix announced it was upgrading its Prism management software to include network visualization capabilities to help administrators see how VMs and applications are connected. Nutanix also promised to add microsegmentation services and distributed firewalls in an upcoming software release. (We talked about it in a recent episode of Network Break.)
These announcements may validate Cloudistics’ critique about networking being a weak spot in a hyperconverged stack. But if Nutanix can make good on its promises, it will blunt the advantage that Cloudistics is aiming to exploit.
That said, for all the flurry of interest around hyperconverged, and Nutanix’s advantages as an early mover, the market is big enough to support a number of competitors. If Cloudistics’ technology does give it an advantage, the company has a chance to get a toehold in this space.
Cloudistics says its Model-S is available now.
Cloudistics was founded in 2013 by CEO Najaf Husain, CTO Dr. Srinidhi Varadarajan, and CRO Todd Fredrick. It raised $15 million in a Series A round from Bain Capital Ventures.