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Hardware-Agnostic Approach to Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Debuts

The latest Silicon Valley startup looking to ride the wave of cloud-based software-defined datacenters (SDDCs) and containerization has come out of stealth mode today with key financial backers and founders who engineered the VMware SDDC and the company's widely used file system.

Whether Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Springpath will rise to prominence remains to be seen, but the company's hyper-converged infrastructure aims to displace traditional OSes, virtual machines (VMs) and application programming models. In addition to the VMware veterans, Springpath is debuting with $34 million in backing from key investors with strong track records. Among them is Sequoia Capital's Jim Goetz, whose portfolio has included such names as Palo Alto Networks, Barracuda Networks, Nimble Storage, Jive and WhatsApp. Also contributing to the round are New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Redpoint Ventures.

Springpath's founders have spent nearly three years building their new platform, which they say will ultimately host, manage and protect multiple VMs, server OSes, apps and application infrastructure including Docker containers. The company's namesake Springpath Data Platform in effect aims to let organizations rapidly provision, host and virtualize multiple VMs (VMware, Hyper-V and KVM), compute and application instances, storage pools and distributed file systems while managing and protecting them running on commodity servers and storage.

Founders Mallik Mahalingam and Krishna Yadappanavar are respectively responsible for the development of VMware VXLAN, the underpinnings of the software-defined network (SDN), and VMFS, the widely deployed file system in VMware environments. The two believe the new distributed subscription-based datacenter platform they're rolling out will reshape the way enterprises develop and host their applications in the future.

Springpath's software runs on any type of commodity servers and storage hardware offered in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription model. The hosting and systems management platform costs $4,000 per server per year and ties into existing enterprise management systems. Not surprisingly, it initially supports VMware vCenter, but will also run as a management pack in Microsoft System Center.

The platform is based on what Springpath calls its Hardware Agnostic Log-structured Objects (HALO) architecture, which purports to offer a superior method for provisioning data services, managing storage and offering a high-performance and scalable distributed infrastructure. Rather than requiring customers to buy turnkey appliances, the company is offering just the software. It's currently supported on servers offered by Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Supermicro. Customers can deploy the software themselves or have a partner run it on one of the supported systems. Springpath has forged a partnership with mega distributor Tech Data to provide support for the platform.

Ashish Gupta, Springpath's head of marketing, described the HALO architecture in an interview. HALO consists of distribution, caching, persistence optimization and structured object layers, Gupta explained. "Married to all of this are the core data services that all enterprises are going to need from a management perspective like snapshots, clones, compression [and so on]," he said. "The idea here is you can put the Springpath Data Platform on a commodity server and then scale and essentially give core capabilities that can replace your array-based infrastructure. You will no longer need to buy expensive multimillion arrays and isolate yourself in that environment, you are buying commodity servers putting the software on top, and you're going to get all the enterprise capabilities and functionality that you expect."

The hardware-agnostic distribution layer, for example, enables enterprises to take advantage of all the underlying hardware to support an application, he added. "The platform can be running on N number of servers. We can take advantage of all the resources underneath the servers, be it the disk, be it the memory or the flash environment and essentially present that to the applications that are supported by the platform."

In that context the applications can run in a virtualized environment from VMware, Hyper-V or KVM, and can be supported in containerized environments. Gupta noted Springpath is also providing its Platform-as-a-Bare-Metal offering. "So it can look like a traditional storage device, except it can scale seamlessly in a bare metal deployment," he said. Gupta added Springpath has its own file system and supports either block objects or Hadoop plug-in infrastructures. "In essence, we can give you a singular platform for the app your application needs," he said.

While it's not the only hyper-converged platform available, it is the first potentially major one offered not tied to a specific hardware platform or offered as an appliance, said Chuck Bartlett, senior VP for Tech Data's advanced infrastructure solutions division, which is working to line up systems integration partners to offer the platform. "The fact that it is compute-agnostic, meaning the end-user client can use the server platform they have or want to implement, is unique and compelling.

Looking ahead, Springpath's Gupta sees HALO targeting emerging Web-scale applications and distributed programming environments built in programming languages such as Node.js, Scala, Akka or Google Go. The initial release is designed to support VMware environments and OpenStack Horizon-based clouds, though plans call for supporting Microsoft Azure, Hyper-V and System Center this summer.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/18/2015 at 4:02 PM


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