Size matters, not in absolute terms where bigger or smaller is always better, but in matching a solution to the requirements it needs to fulfill. Scale Computing has transformed over the last few years from a player for budget-conscious small businesses to a scalable solution for distributed enterprises. I see two vital dimensions where Scale Computing has been innovating. The first is multi-cluster management to allow the central management of vast numbers of clusters. The other has been in scaling down the size of the minimum site for which they have a solution. Past Scale Computing hardware platforms have been full-depth rack-mount servers, offering options for dozens of CPU cores and hundreds of gigabytes of RAM. These models fulfill the requirements for medium-sized offices where a few dozen to a few hundred VMs are required. If you are a bank or a big box retail store, you might need this infrastructure at each branch to serve dozens of staff. You also want the same management console to manage all hundred or thousand branches, each with a local cluster. The scale of multi-cluster management that Scale Computing offers has been impressive. Recently, Scale simplified some of the network requirements, removing the need for a physical dedicated cluster network, now using VXLAN to isolate the cluster networking. There is an excellent set of videos on some of Scale’s innovations in their presentations at Tech Field Day 20.
A branch office solution that is deployed to every retail premises of a national or international retailer needs to scale to the requirements of the largest and smallest branch. Often, the smallest branch is a sole-charge staff member and a single till plus the corporate infrastructure like security systems and staff tracking. That small branch might need between three and five VMs, usually with a total size of a few Gigabytes of RAM and less than a terabyte of storage. In the past, the only cost-effective way to run these VMs was on a small form-factor desktop PC, very limited in both redundancy and remote management. The latest platform from Scale Computing is the HC150, based on Intel NUC tenth generation hardware, which can have as little as 4GB per node, allowing 6GB of VMs in a 3-node redundant cluster. Some of the magic is that Scale has optimized their RAM overhead to under 1GB, leaving 3GB per node for VMs in a tiny 4GB NUC config and 15GB for VMs in a 16GB NUC configuration. With the tenth generation NUC, Intel has brought back AMT features for remote management of hardware. Scale Computing uses the AMT capability to allow zero-touch remote deployment; a tiny cluster is shipped to the site with just a diagram of how to install. The commissioning process for the cluster is managed remotely once the NUCs are connected to the network. With NUCs, a three-node cluster can fit inside a shallow network rack, or on a shelf under the till in a small retail site where space is at a premium. If those NUCs don’t seem enterprise enough for you, Lenovo is a significant partner for Scale. Lenovo has rugged micro-servers that can form a Scale Computing cluster, no fans, and robust metal cases. I also saw some mention of support for the Wi-Fi adapters in both the NUC and Lenovo machines. I imagine that the Scale cluster traffic is still over wired ethernet, but the VM networking could happen over Wi-Fi. I imagine that it opens some exciting deployment options.
© 2019, Alastair. All rights reserved.