When considering hyperconverged infrastructure solutions, an important distinction must be drawn between "stack owners" and "stack dependents." Stack dependents are solutions that run in virtual machines and sit on top of another vendor's hypervisor. Stack owners are vendors who run on bare metal and build the entire stack themselves.
Here's how these differences play out:
- Licenses: Stack owners leverage the same open source hypervisors (KVM or Xen) used by the major cloud providers, eliminating the need to pay for costly software licenses. Stack dependents typically offer support for multiple hypervisors, but have limited integrations with open source versions.
- Performance: Stack owners run on bare metal, giving them direct control over hardware resources for storage and compute. Stack dependents run in a virtual machine, which means every I/O operation follows an unnecessarily inefficient path. Where stack dependents advertise 16,000 IOPS from a three-node cluster, stack owners can deliver 180,000 IOPS from a single node.
- Simplicity: Stack owners manage the entire end-to-end infrastructure from a single pane of glass, providing a public cloud experience in a private on-premises solution. Stack dependents alleviate some storage management complexities, but overall, system and virtual machine management still requires multiple applications with multiple interfaces.
- Security: Stack owners have direct control over all aspects of the hardware and can support technologies like data-at-rest encryption. Stack dependents lack that control because they run inside virtual machines. Inherent in their design is the requirement that something else (such as a hypervisor) is booted before the stack rider boots, impeding their ability to secure sensitive parts of the data set.
- Software-defined: Stack owners own everything, which means that software-defined anything is possible, including real-time, self-learning systems that can power up or power down resources as needed and redistribute workloads. Stack dependents merely own the storage pool.
The real breakthrough will be in making these complex technologies consumable by enterprises, as well as smaller organizations. The next generation of VMware-like companies will be the ones that successfully deliver the complexity of a true elastic private cloud and support for legacy workloads in a simple, easy-to-deploy, easy-to-scale, and high-performance product.
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