Argon Systems Launches Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Platform Based On Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct

A young custom server and hyper-converged infrastructure appliance builder with deep ties to Microsoft this week unveiled new models in a series of appliances this week.

Argon Systems' new line of hyper-converged infrastructure appliances includes three models based on Microsoft's Storage Spaces Direct, the software-defined storage option included with Windows Server 2016 Data Center edition.

They include the Argon Systems Server 3000 with an all-NVMe storage configuration for maximum performance; the Server 5000 high-performance, high-capacity offering for applications like SQL Server; and the Server 6000 with large capacity for mixed applications, Jim Reekes, product manager for the San Jose, Calif.-based company, told CRN.

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Argon, founded in 2015, has a history of working with Microsoft on such offerings as an Intel Rack Scale Design infrastructure for Microsoft Azure Stack, Reekes said. Argon Founder Robert Keith received 40 patents related to cloud technologies, most of which were acquired by Microsoft, Reekes said.

Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct allows the development of a low-cost hyper-converged infrastructure offering when compared to most hyper-converged infrastructure appliances, he said.

"You get everything offered by other vendors and then some," he said. "You just need the servers and Windows Server 2016. In the data center, most people probably already run Windows Server 2016 with VMware. If you can run Windows Server on bare metal, you don't need to pay for VMware. And you can run Linux, containers, and storage solutions on top of Windows Server 2016."

Configuring Storage Spaces Direct for use as a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance is not necessarily easy, Reekes said. For instance, he compiled a list of features of Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct which, when printed, fitted about 20 pages.

All of Argon Systems' offerings are based on Supermicro or Hewlett Packard Enterprise servers, Reekes said. "Everything we sell is Microsoft-certified," he said.

Argon Systems does nearly all its business via channel partners including MSPs and IT consultants, he said.

One of those channel partners, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Headlands Associates, likes the Argon Systems Storage Spaces Direct-based offering in part because of its simplicity and in part because of its big cost advantage.

Carl Wolfston, principal at Headlands Associates, told CRN that hyper-converged infrastructure offering like those offered by Hewlett-Packard's SimpliVity line require VMware to run, and on top of that customers need Microsoft Windows licenses.

With Argon Systems, customers can get a four-node configuration for under $100,000, or about one-third the price of its typical competitors, Wolfston said.

Wolfston said that, while Microsoft has a really strong offering for hyper-converged infrastructure in its Storage Spaces Direct option, the vendor is not actively marketing it as such in part because of its focus its sales rep compensation on its Microsoft Azure cloud and other recurring revenue offerings.

While Storage Spaces Direct can be used for such purposes as driving disaster recovery to the Microsoft Azure cloud or as a way to run hyper-converged infrastructure on virtual machines in Azure as well as on physical hardware in hybrid data centers, Microsoft is not pushing the technology in that direction, Wolfston said.

"Microsoft reps get better compensation if they sell consumption on the cloud," he said. "They get commissions on Windows Server, but consumption in the cloud leads to much higher compensation. And that's where they spend their time."