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VMware EVO SDDC testers shoot for low storage cost

Reduced storage costs and better capacity scaling are key reasons EVO SDDC testers say they are interested in the hyper-converged private cloud stack.

SAN FRANCISCO – VMware EVO SDDC remains months away from shipping, but early field trial customers at VMworld 2015 said they hope the data center hyper-converged technology can make their storage less costly and easier to manage.

The EVO software-defined data center (SDDC) stack -- previously known as EVO:RACK -- includes VMware's vSphere, Virtual SAN and NSX 6.2, along with management software that runs on x86 server hardware. VMware bills it as a turnkey private cloud platform that can roll into a data center intact. Customers who have been kicking the tires gathered at a VMworld panel to discuss their expectations for EVO SDDC.

Timothy Mercil, IT infrastructure services manager at Minneapolis-based medical device manufacturer Medtronic, said one of the main things he's looking for with EVO SDDC is to lower storage cost.

"We're looking for alternatives to enterprise storage at a lower cost, while still providing value," he said. "EVO SDDC is an alternative to the way we do things. Our No. 1 reason [for considering it] is to see if we can do enterprise storage at a reduced cost."

Medtronic is a Dell shop, and Dell is among the first VMware EVO SDDC hardware partners. Mercil said the technology has worked fine so far. "It has definitely impressed us from what we've seen so far," he said. "Our technicians are excited. Setup was simple; it took about an hour."

Christian Rudolph, lead architect of next-generation infrastructure for the German-based travel company, Tui Group, said he is hoping VMware EVO SDDC will help consolidate from 36 data centers to two.

He said one of the benefits of the hyper-converged stack is that it fits in with Tui Group's operational IT teams, which combine people from different disciplines.

"We put operational teams together that support one stack," he said. "There's more involvement between specialties. The network guys have to know about storage and the storage guys have to know more about networks than in the past. [EVO SDDC] gives them all the same tools and processes."

Tui Group has been testing EVO SDDC with its gear from Quanta Computer Inc., which has also signed on as one of VMware's EVO SDDC partners. Rudolph said one of the advantages of EVO SDDC will be that it will be pretested. "Hopefully, everything will go smoothly" when it goes into production, he said.

Indranil Sengupta, director of cloud services at cloud provider NTT America Inc., is also looking to reduce costs. Sengupta said scaling storage capacity is a big challenge for NTT America, and EVO SDDC should help.

"A hyper-converged infrastructure makes it easier because it reduces the number of steps I have," he said.

Sengupta was the most bullish about EVO SDDC at the panel. He said he expects his environment will be 100% hyper-converged within three years.

"I look at EVO SDDC as a new Mercedes race car; now I have to drive it to the finish line," he said.

Other hyper-convergence fans at VMworld said they can build a private cloud for less without EVO SDDC.

"I think I can get there with SimpliVity," said Sean Boyd, senior server administrator at Colby College, in Waterville, Maine.

Boyd said he has seven SimpliVity hyper-converged OmniCube nodes and is looking to set up OmniCube at a colocation, as well as move virtual machines from the campus data center via VMotion.

Bob Dussault, information security officer at Minneapolis-based Hallmark Business Connections, said he is expanding his Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure into a multi-data center stack. "We decided on a strategy where we are going to take our original stack and convert it to a data center-centric cluster," he said.

That entails using an SSD-heavy Nutanix cluster for SQL databases, another cluster that is compute heavy and a third cluster in a Chicago data center for disaster recovery.

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