VMware's New EVO SDDC: Making Rigid Data Center Infrastructure More Flexible

VMware Monday expanded its software-defined data center strategy with the introduction of its EVO SDDC software stack for managing storage, compute, networking and virtualization resources as a single system.

The EVO SDDC, previously known by its code name EVO:Rack, targets system OEMs looking to build integrated enterprise software-defined data center and cloud solutions that scale from one-third of a server rack to thousands of nodes, said John Gilmartin, vice president and general manager for VMware's Integrated Systems Business Unit.

VMware also introduced a major update to its Virtual SAN, or VSAN, software-defined storage offering with new high-availability, data recovery and configuration features, Gilmartin told CRN.

[Related: VMware EVO Channel Not Seeing It, But Expects Changes At VMworld]

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Both new solutions were unveiled at VMworld, which is being held this week in San Francisco.

EVO SDDC was developed as a way to bring flexibility to data center infrastructures that traditionally have been built on rigid hardware configurations, Gilmartin said.

"For years, we have been talking about data center agility," he said. "With EVO SDDC, we want to make data centers easier for customers."

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company already has signed up Dell, VCE and Quanta as initial systems vendors to work with the EVO SDDC software, Gilmartin said. Solutions featuring those vendors' hardware integrated with the EVO SDDC software are expected to ship in the first half of 2016, he said.

EVO SDDC includes many of the software components in VMware's EVO:Rail hyper-converged infrastructure solution for managing storage, compute and networking resources.

The key difference is a new application, the EVO SDDC Manager, which provides a highly automated process for configuring the hardware, deploying the software, managing the solution, and handling all updates and patches, Gilmartin said.

"Customers can go from bare hardware to cloud in two hours," he said. "We also include VMware best practices for deploying data center architectures."

EVO SDDC includes VMware NSX software-defined networking technology and the company's vRealize cloud automation software.

Also included is VMware's Hardware Management Services, which provides consistent ways to monitor, update and patch hardware. Gilmartin said VMware plans to release Hardware Management Services to open source.

"We look at Hardware Management Services as a fundamental building block for the EVO SDDC suite, especially on the storage side," he said. "We are seeing customers increasingly move their services to x86 hardware and to scale-out platforms."

The base hardware configuration for EVO SDDC is eight servers, two 10-Gbit Ethernet top-of-rack switches, one management switch for out-of-band connectivity, and a spine switch with 32 40-Gbit Ethernet ports for connecting multiple racks together, Gilmartin said.

"Just add additional servers and racks to scale," he said.

A fully configured EVO SDDC rack will support more than 1,000 IaaS virtual machines or more than 2,000 virtual desktops, he said.

Also new from VMware at VMworld is VSAN 6.1, a major update to VSAN 6.0, which VMware introduced in February.

VSAN 6.1, the third release of VSAN in the past 18 months that has more than 2,000 customers, now includes high-availability features, Gilmartin said. This includes the ability to use the application to build metro clusters and provide a five-minute recovery point objective to prevent unplanned downtime and mitigate the results of any downtime that does occur.

The application also now includes the ability to configure two-node clusters, compared with the previous minimum of three nodes, Gilmartin said.

"This is good for remote office and branch office needs, or for retail opportunities," he said. "VSAN can be managed from a central data center."

VSAN 6.1 also supports the latest flash storage technologies including Intel's NVMe and the new SanDisk ULLtraDIMM.

While VMware has done a good job with its VSAN and EVO SDDC technology, according to one VMware solution provider who asked not to be named, they could be game-changers if the vendor added two features common to storage software.

"VSAN still does not address the 'gorilla in the room,'" the solution provider said. "VMware has not added dedupe and compression. Until it gets those two, VSAN will be interesting as a software-defined play at the low end. But without them, customers will need to purchase more disks, so that hurts in the enterprise."

"All those extra disks will be expensive at scale," the solution provider said. "If EVO SDDC was fully unleashed with dedupe and compression, it could be the most disruptive force out there. This will be how people will run data centers in the future."

A VMware spokesperson told CRN via email that while the company currently does not offer dedupe and compression as part of VSAN, it will use VMworld to offer a technology preview of new deduplication and erasure coding technologies. Those technologies will be available for beta testing some time in the future, the spokesperson said.