VM EVO: RAIL vs Nutanix vs vSan Converged Infrastructure

Nutanix, vSan, and VM EVO: RAIL are the three big competitors for the hyperconverged platform market. Which should you choose for your company? There is a wealth of information out there, so let’s look at some of the features under consideration to see how they stack up against one another.

Nutanix has the attribute of being on the market the longest, since 2009, so it has had time to develop a more streamlined approach to innovation, and to prove out any of its solutions. Both vSan and VM EVO:RAIL are newer, having been released in the last couple of years, so there are still a lot of unknowns for their platforms. This should be taken into consideration when researching potential solutions.

Performance

Nutanix sells a mature, scalable converged compute and storage platform based on open-source software which has proved to be very robust and eliminates the need for traditional storage arrays. The modular building block design allows for small deployments which can grow into very large cluster installations, scaling past 32 nodes. Additionally, when you add a node, it is deployed right away.

vSAN is a more complementary solution than it is a replacement, as it is a software-defined storage component in an overall virtual environment. It works with any hardware on the VMware Hardware Compatibility list. It is able to scale up or out on a granular and linear basis, and is supported for 32 nodes.

EVO:RAIL would seem to combine the best of these options, as it is a hyperconverged infrastructure, including both software and hardware. It is also a VMWare product, so it includes VSAN software, which means that it also scales both granularly and linearly. However, it is only supported for 16 nodes.

Simplicity

For all of the above platforms, simplicity is the goal. Instead of having an IT team and a set of applications to manage each discrete aspect of your array, a hyperconverged infrastructure can be maintained by a single team or person. Hyperconverged infrastructures are supported by a single vendor, which greatly simplifies the upgrade process and can reduce maintenance costs.

Cost

All of the above arrays have the same goal: easier administration and lower costs. The costs are easier to see on the back end than on the initial outlay, as these arrays are designed to save on every administrative level after the initial install.

Nutanix starts at US $90,000 for 4 nodes, depending on the model. This includes both the hardware and software required for a Nutanix hyperconverged appliance.  You will also need to purchase vSphere licenses.  If more storage is needed, additional nodes can be purchased and added to the Nutanix Cluster.  Professional and Ultimate edition licenses do cost more, but enable additional features that significantly enhance Nutanix capabilities.  When new features are released, customers do not have to pay if they are on a support contract.

vSan  license list price is US$2,495 per socket. If you are purchasing the Data Protection plan along with it, you can add on another US$1,095.  This is for the vSAN software licenses only.  You will also need to add the cost of vSphere licenses as well.  The total price of a vSAN cluster will also need to include the price of the underlying hardware.  You have two options for vSAN hardware.  Build your own bases on components listed on the vSAN Hardware Compatibility Guide, or purchase vSAN Ready Nodes from you hardware vendor of choice.  Links to these resources are below:

https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php?deviceCategory=vsan

https://partnerweb.vmware.com/programs/vsan/Virtual%20SAN%20Ready%20Nodes.pdf

EVO:RAIL is priced per appliance and includes all the hardware and software licenses required to run EVO Rail.  vSPhere Enterprise Plus, vSAN, vCenter, and vCenter Log Insight licenses are bundled with the EVO Rail appliance.  Each appliance has four independent ESXi hosts.   The EVO Rail appliance is purchased from VMware qualified EVO rail partners.  Dell, EMC HP and several other hardware vendors are Qualified EVO:Rail partners.   The all-inclusive price of EVO:Rail is dependent on the vendor but are ~ $200,000 for each appliance.

Conclusion

All of the above vendors develop hyperconverged platforms, so it is best to carefully consider the one that works best for your IT needs and budget. It is a good idea to determine whether the simplicity and performance opportunities introduced by hyperconverged solutions like Nutanix outweigh the perceived benefit of choice and flexibility of VSAN or VM EVO:RAIL. Do your research, as these are not designed to be one-size-fits-all solutions, and the devil is in the details.