Briefing Note: Idealstor Enables the Hyper-Converged SMB

Small to medium sized business (SMB) are a great target for hyper-converged architectures because SMBs don’t typically have the application requirements that would justify dedicated compute and storage hardware. The problem is that many hyper-converged architectures (HCAs) are too expensive for the SMB to consider, and even HCA starting configurations are often more than the SMB will ever need in terms of compute and storage. Idealstor’s new hyper-converged system promises to address this problem and enable the hyper-converged SMB.

The Virtualized SMB Dilemma

Most SMBs can satisfy their virtualization needs with as little as two physical servers, few have the need for more than four physical servers. But virtualization increases the need for high availability, which sends many of these businesses down the path of a shared storage device like a SAN or a NAS. In fact, the number one question we get from SMB IT professionals is “What SAN or NAS should I use for my virtual environment?”. Adding shared storage, especially for the SMB, adds cost and complexity. And as is the case with compute, a minimally configured shared storage system provides more performance and capacity than most of these businesses will ever need.

The Hyper-Converged SMB Dilemma

Hyper-converged architectures are architectures that integrate the storage layer into the compute layer and they have increased dramatically in popularity over the past few years. They bring a self-scaling architecture that is ideal for rapidly growing data centers. The problem is that most of these hyper-converged architectures require a minimum of three nodes to get started and deliver far more performance, thanks to their use of flash, than the SMB will ever need. The result is a system that has an expensive starting point and has most of its initial capabilities go underutilized. In other words, the SMB is paying a premium for storage and compute performance that they won’t use.

Enabling the Hyper-Converged SMB

Idealstor’s hyper-converged system can start in as few as two nodes. It creates a shared pool of storage by aggregating internal or direct attached storage across the available host nodes. Each node also has a dedicated SSD so that the virtual machines that the node is hosting get local SSD performance for read I/O. Each node has its own dedicated network card for inter-node connectivity. This means that the two node starter system can be directly connected via a crossover cable and not consume a switch port.

The software that creates the shared pool of storage runs as a virtual appliance and it supports VMware and Hyper-V. This differentiates Idealstor from other SMB focused hyper-converged solutions, which tend to provide a Linux hypervisor. Most SMBs are going to be more comfortable with VMware/Hyper-V. Even if Linux is hidden, getting support and finding additional utilities for these platforms can sometimes be more difficult. A good example is backup, none of the mainstream virtualization specific backup applications support Linux hypervisors, but almost all of them support both VMware and Hyper-V.

It’s also important to note what is missing from the Idealstor solution; there is no deduplication or compression. Deduplication adds overhead that needs to be off-set with more processing power and storage performance, which adds costs. Most SMBs don’t need extreme capacity, they need simplicity; for them the lack of deduplication and compression is a welcomed omission. Also missing is an all-flash option. Again, most SMBs don’t need hundreds of thousands of IOPS, they need moderate performance, Idealstor claims 30K to 40K IOPS. Performance that easily addresses their needs at a price that they can afford. The simple cache layer that Idealstor provides should be sufficient for most of their target market.

StorageSwiss Take

Hyper-converged architectures are tailor made for the small to medium sized business. But most solutions are simply overkill both in terms of price and capabilities. Even solutions that claim to focus on SMBs force the organization to abandon VMware or Hyper-V and implement a Linux based solution that they may be uncomfortable with. Idealstor resolves many of these issues. For SMBs looking for a cost effective way to start their virtualization journey, or for SMBs looking to scale their first virtualization deployment, Idealstor deserves a close look.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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4 comments on “Briefing Note: Idealstor Enables the Hyper-Converged SMB
  1. […] Storage Switzerland has recommended that SMBs take a closer look at Idealstor Integrated Hyper Converged Solutions in their latest Briefing Note. […]

  2. George, any other viable competitve convereged solutions out there for SMB/SME customers that you have looked at? Thanks… Allen

    • George Crump says:

      Hi Allen, Actually there are a few. Scale Computing and Nimboxx both have hyper-converged solutions that target the SMB/SME. The difference is that these solutions use a Linux derivative for the hypervisor. That may not be a big deal to a SMB/SME that has no investment in virtualization at this point, but it could be if they do. That said the open source nature of these solutions may be less expensive long-term and may allow the vendors a greater level of customization.



      George Crump – Chief Steward, Storage Switzerland –

  3. Jerry says:

    George, I’ve looked at Scale Computing and Nimboxx. Each seems to have taken steps towards the “overkill” side of the field. Idealstor, on the other hand, offers a solution that is competitive with the traditional Dell-type standalone file server that most SMBs find more appealing to their limited IT budget. Have you had an opportunity work with an Idealstor hyper-converged system? Thanks, Jerry

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