Storage Field Day 7 – Maxta Hyper-Convergence

maxtaMaxta was the last presenter at Storage Field Day 7 and spoke about their hyper-convergence product. Hyper-Convergence… what’s that all about again? Simplicity mostly: combine your compute and storage in one single unit and manage it in a single integrated user interface. Maxta offers their product in two form factors: the software-only MxSP package, or the MaxDeploy appliance which is hardware and software combined and preconfigured.  Maxta also adds three additional key values to hyper-convergence: Choice, Scalability and Cost. The former two usually don’t spring to mind when you hear about hyper-convergence products: the simplicity you seek comes with a trade-off. Let’s dive in!

The Maxta Solutions

In their presentation Maxta explained that there are basically two types of customers. On the one hand there’s the customer that wants maximum simplicity: they just want to buy a bunch of boxes, power ’em up and get to work. For them Maxta provides preconfigured appliances from the major hardware vendors like Cisco, Dell, HP, Lenovo etc. Maxta has a configuration tool available that provides a recommendation which appliance to choose based on some input about the customer environment. All appliances are certified by Maxta: they provide performance characteristics and you know exactly what you’re going to get.

Maxta Solutions

On the other hand there’s the service provider customers that want to supply their own hardware and glue some software on top of it. Maxta supports MxSP on any hardware that’s on the HCL of the hypervisor: for VMware this is anything on the VMware HCL from vSphere 5.0U1 and upwards. This allows you to leverage the latest fast & fancy features the current hardware technology has to offer.

Maxta MxSP Architecture & Licensing

Your MxSP node or MaxDeploy appliance consists of compute, storage and a hypervisor. The storage component consists of spinning disks (they recommend 7200rpm drives for optimal cost/performance trade-off; any type of block storage will do: internal/external JBOD, even an external SAN should you have one collecting dust) with flash media for caching purposes: Maxta recommends that you size the flash media at 10% of your HDD capacity.

Data is protected with 1 or multiple copies (like RAID1, no erasure coding). You can configure nodes that do not have any storage; these will just be compute nodes that consume storage from the other nodes in the global namespace.

Maxta MxSP Architecture

Software licensing is based on raw storage capacity. Licensing based on raw capacity might sound strange and expensive at first with RAID1 protection in mind, but consider the fact that the usable space quickly skyrockets once you start using a ton of snapshots in for example VDI environments and Maxta promises to be very competitive in the licensing department. And since you only pay for capacity, adding compute nodes that do not have any internal storage is free.

Data services wise, the Maxta Distributed Filesystem specsheet doesn’t look bad: there’s synchronous replication between nodes for incoming writes and a whole array of resiliency and data integrity features which help keep your data safe and performance high during a drive or node failure. There’s also cluster-wide capacity balancing and “free” snapshots that do not have a performance impact. And for management purposes there’s a slick, fast HTML5 user interface with REST APIs exposed by the management server. If you want more details about these technical goodies, see the videos on the MxSP architecture and the Maxta design principles and software stack.

My two cents

Calm and well thought out. That’s the vibe I picked up in the Maxta presentation. They’ve put on their thinking caps, created a solid architecture and now bring it to market in both an appliance form factor and as a software solution which you can install on your own hardware, both with a clean management interface (of which you can catch a glimpse in the demo).

Maxta GUI demoSince this was the final presentation of Storage Field Day 7, Maxta arranged some food and drinks for us. In the meantime we took the opportunity to shoulder surf with one of the GUI designers, which allowed us to get a closer look at the snapshot policies and the GUI itself.

If you want to read more about Maxta, check out Dan’s post!

Disclaimer: Even though GestaltIT paid for the flight, hotel and various other expenses, I was not compensated for my time and there is no requirement to blog or tweet about any of the presentations. Everything I post is of my own accord.

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