At VMworld last month, VMware revealed Project MARVIN as EVO:RAIL. This is VMware’s entry into the hyper-converged space. Companies like Nutanix and Simplivity have made waves with their product offerings making it easier for companies, small and large, to deploy a virtual infrastructure. Whether or not companies have bought into this way of deploying infrastructure, most have looked into it.
EVO:RAIL is a new way of deploying hyper-convergence that is not directly sold by VMware but rather the partnered vendors that have manufactured the physical appliance. “One throat to choke” is the name of the game here. Every bit of this appliance will be supported by calling a single number.
ROBO – With a few configuration parameters entered by an admin, the appliance sets itself up quickly and provides an easy to use interface for even a novice admin. I believe this is a perfect product for ROBO (Remote Office/Branch Office). My experience with determining specs, deploying, and training on-site ROBO staff, the RAIL would have been a great product to implement. Many of these smaller ROBO’s staff that I have worked with were just learning about virtualization. Changing their mindset of what is possible and then teaching them how to use the new technology in a short amount of time on-site can be challenging. Based on the videos I have seen (link) showing the implementation of a single and multiple EVO:RAIL appliances, going on-site to train the staff could be optional.
Enterprise? – Obviously I feel good about the EVO:RAIL being a ROBO solution but I am definitely not sold on it being deployed in an enterprise datacenter. One of the big reasons I feel this way is the integration with current deployments. I’ve seen some discussion about the possibility of integrating it into an already deployed VSAN environment. I saw that it is “technically possible” but I gathered from the hesitant responses that it should not be done. Therefore, an enterprise could use the EVO:RAIL for a specific use case like VDI or even an easy way to segregate a workload for a division/group within the organization. There are limitations on how it can be deployed but remember, this is a hyper-converged appliance and is not meant to be integrated in with our traditional infrastructure.
UI – RAIL has its own UI to administer the environment instead of using the normal vSphere/vCenter clients, and by doing so VMware has reduced the complexity of the environment dramatically. The UI runs purely on HTML5 which is a big improvement over the vSphere Web Client that well love to hate. I assume the vCenter 6.1/6.5? version of the web client that will be forced down our throats will run on HTML5. Maybe we won’t mind that web client! VMware should definitely be taking the UI team from EVO:RAIL and reassign them to the vCenter Web Client to perform a 100% rewrite.
I’d love to get a shot at playing around with one of these appliances and working with others to deploy it for a specific use case. In the long-term, it will be interesting to see how not only VMware (and the EVO partners) but Nutanix and Simplivity will address upgrading to newer appliances as the hardware bought today will be aged in a few years.