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The Next Step in Hyperconvergence with Maxta

Hyperconverged infrastructure has changed the way a lot of organizations view virtualization. It brings a certain kind of simplicity to how it can be managed, provisioned, and deployed. Yet, this often only applied to organization at scale. The initial wave of hyperconverged approaches still didn’t change complexity of operation, instead focusing on deployment and provisioning. We are now starting to see a wave of HCI solutions that address that gap. Maxta offers a software focused vision of HCI that gives you flexibility on hardware, simplicity of operation, and scalability. Hyperconvergence on the hardware you want? I’m interested!

So how do you bring HCI to the masses? Maxta looked at the inverted virtualization pyramid of doom and looked to make it more manageable. Their entire solution was built from the ground up with the idea of reducing complexity. The removal of a traditional SAN is probably the most extreme, but it’s evident across the entire solution. Each rack has storage available, which is made available to a distributed file system through the hypervisor. With that, the management of a SAN, storage arrays, and the problems RAID and physical data services suddenly disappears.

Part of this software-centric approach is that they are relatively hardware agnostic. They have some reference specifications, but most of the modern x86 world is fair game. If you do want to buy some hardware, they offer pre-validated MaxDeploy appliances through channel partners, which I’m sure will make Maxta an easier sell to some CTOs.

The other advantage of not being tied to hardware comes to organizations in terms of cost. Maxta offers a simple one-time license that can transfer over to hardware as that changes. Unlike their competition, the license is not tied to a rapidly aging hardware stack that will someday need to be replaced. This allows them to be extremely cost-effective in the long run. This might be a little bit of a longer play for Maxta in terms of value. But as HCI goes from insurgent to dominant in the data center, the value of this should become increasingly obvious to organizations of all sizes.

One of the most interesting software features for their HCI implementation is native support for automatic tiering. This allows them to prioritize flash as the first point of write and read. From there, data is distributed across to slower storage mediums. This is all full configurable, and supports prioritizing hot data in faster mediums. This of course can be overridden to always make sure performance-centric app data is put on the fastest medium available. Overall, Maxta’s solution offers a degree of application awareness that’s truly impressive.

Their tiering scheme is part of a larger effort to make the entire solution self-provisioning. Administrators set policies for application and overall disk performance, and Maxta takes over the provisioning and orchestration necessary to deliver (obviously within the constraints of the hardware). Reducing complexity has always been a claim of HCI. But Maxta is truly allowing you to reduce overall complexity, allowing you to reduce not just your hardware footprint in the data center, but even the staff needed to keep everything running smoothly.

With the hardware agnostic approach and flexible licensing, Maxta is able to offer a 3 node HCI deployment with 24TB of capacity for less than half of something comparable from the larger vendors. Or if you’d like, they offer a freemium version for organizations looking to move into the HCI world. Usually the word “freemium” means a product with compromised features that force you to buy into a product after giving you a little taste of its capability. But Maxta gives you unfettered access to all of their features. The only limits are in terms of scale. You can run it on up to three nodes with a maximum capacity of 24TB, more than enough to run it through its paces. This isn’t an upsell, rather confidence that the solution will sell itself.

Hyperconverged infrastructure is at a bit of an inflection point. It has proven to be a reliable model for virtualization in larger deployments, by consolidating the physical sprawl of hardware into more easily provisioned solutions. But simplicity requires more than just controlling physical sprawl. In a lot of ways, HCI to date simply shifts complexity into software. Sure it might be easier to manage, but it’s still inherently complex. We’ve seen other solutions that attempt to remedy this with a vertically integrated hardware approach. Maxta instead offers true simplicity for hyperconverged infrastructure, all while being cost effective and scalable.

Update: This piece was edited from the original to clarify Maxta’s market strategy.

About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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