Take Five With Tom Fenton

5 Tips for Working with the Scale Computing HC3 Hyperconvergence Appliance

Is this all-in-one virtualization box a good choice for an SMB?

I had the opportunity to go out to Indianapolis, Ind., and work with a true hyperconvergence appliance: the ScalScale Computing HC3 system.  After working with it for a while, I wanted to share my top five impressions.

Scale Computing has sold more than 900 HC3 appliances and was an early implementer of hyperconvergence systems. The company builds and maintains its own software stack, based on a KVM hypervisor with VM-centric storage and a built-in management system. Its market is small to midsize businesses (SMBs) that don't have the desire or expertise to support and operate a complicated virtualization solution.

Take 1
Quick and easy setup. Scale Computing has worked hard to make its system as easy to work with and as quick to set up as practical. The company has done a good job with it. You should be able to set up a four-node cluster in less than half an hour; that includes removing the packaging and racking the system. After installation and configuration, it took another five minutes to instantiate a VM.

Take 2
Simple storage. Don't go looking for complicated storage policies because an HC3 system offers only one: mirrored data, striped as widely as possible. I tested the storage and found it more than adequate for the tasks I ran against it.

Take 3
Send in the clones. An HC3 cluster uses linked clones by default, so a VM clone won't take up any space until data has changed. Because it takes mere moments to create a clone, use them rather than installing from scratch, when possible. You'll save time and storage space.

Take 4
Take snapshots like you're on vacation. HC3 supports more than 5,000 snapshots per VM. They use very little overhead, and can be deleted in a matter of moments, no matter how large they are.

Take 5
Swift support. Scale Computing has a world-class U.S.-based support organization with an extremely knowledgeable staff. If you have an issue or can't quite figure out how to do something, drop them a line. It worked for me: I had an issue and called support. Within three minutes, I had a workaround and was up and running again.

Bonus Take!
Group hug. Hyperconvergence appliances like the HC3 are gaining in popularity. They're designed to be easy to set up and quick to use, while providing scale-out functionality. If you have a small deployment, don't waste your time fooling around with hardware compatibility lists and multiple vendors to build your datacenter infrastructure; instead, embrace the appliance.

About the Author

Tom Fenton works in VMware's Education department as a Senior Course Developer. He has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 20 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 10 years focused on virtualization and storage. Before re-joining VMware, Tom was a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, were he headed their Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler.

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