EVO RAIL is a specification for a Hyper-Converged infrastructure that is published and maintained by VMware with over 9 vendors offering compliant systems.  The concept behind EVO RAIL is awe inspiring.  Imagine unboxing a 2 U Rack system that includes four compute nodes, Networking, shared storage, Software licenses, three years support and an automation front end that installs your virtualization Hypervisor and provides users with a self-service portal that can be used to provision workloads, all in less than 15 minutes.

VMware did a phenomenal job in provisioning the hardware requirements and integration to make this all work.  The User Interface is very intuitive and anyone can have the system fully operational in just minutes with a little planning. The solution is designed for growth and can support a 4X expansion for a maximum of 16 nodes spread across four 2U rack mount systems (14” of rack space).

The self-service portal is configured out of the box with 2 templates for VMs with limited ability to create additional templates.  EVO RAIL is powered by vSphere Enterprise Plus V5.5 and vCenter.  For those who are familiar with ESX, they can go directly to the vCenter console to configure additional functionality.

To assure compatibility and supportability, all EVO RAIL manufacturers must comply with the specifications provided by VMware.  This is where the EVO Achilles heel becomes evident.  The EVO RAIL specifications call for each node to have two Intel E5-2620 v2 six-core CPUs with 192 GB RAM. Although this might be fine for smaller organizations, most will find this CPU choice to limit expandability and density. With intel shipping 18 core processors for about the same price, an equivalent configuration could be provided that support 3x the density at about the same price.

True, the magic of EVO is the automation but a competent integrator can install VMware’s vRealize Suite to provide an even greater level of automation, orchestration and manageability. Hewlett Packard is taking the concept of EVO RAIL and providing a comparable solution to fit within the same footprint.  The HP solution, branded Converged System 200-HC StoreVirtual (CS200-HC), uses the same hardware platform as HP’s EVO-RAIL solution but they offer a choice of 8 core and 10 core processors (refer to comparison  table at end of this article). The HP solution leverages HP OneView to provide the deployment automation and hardware management.  This allows an appliance to be fully configured and added to vCenter within 15 minutes.

Unlike EVO RAIL, HP is leveraging VMware licenses that can be purchased at the time of sale or provided as part of an existing ELA.  The HP VMware licenses are fully transferable and can be applied to newer systems when the system is retired.  By contrast, the EVO RAIL licenses are tied to the hardware and must be retired with the hardware.  HP’s offering provides investment protection for the licenses by allowing users to migrate the licenses to other hardware.

Although the HP solution does not provide an end user self-service portal for consumption, HP offers the VMware vRealize suite of products as an operating system choice.  These products provide a much higher level of functionality and flexibility and automation.

The HP solution can be used with vSAN but HP bundles in their StoreVirtual VSA at no additional cost.  The StoreVirtual VSA allows the HP CS200 solution to be expanded to 32 nodes instead of 16 with EVO RAIL.  The environment can be expanded even further by creating multiple storage clusters.  The HP StoreVirtual appliance is based on the LeftHand VSA that offers over 10 years of maturity.  This Software defined storage platform includes advanced SAN features such as san based asynchronous and synchronous replication, support for metro clusters, SAN based Snapshots and a Network RAID feature that provides full redundancy for failed nodes with no loss of data. The StoreVirtual VSA is managed transparently from within OneView or from vCenter.

For those requiring the ultimate in automation, ease of use and minimal on going administration, EVO RAIL is by far the best solution, but if you need more capacity/density, a lower price point, greater expansion and flexibility,  You will need to look beyond EVO.  On the Plus side, custom Enterprise Class solutions are available with endless options for capacity and automation.  The HP CS200-HC provides a very good entry point with instant on functionality but if even more capacity and density is required, an enterprise grade blade or rack mount server solution with vRealize Suite will offer much greater functionality.

+Vsphere/vCenter Licenses must be purchased seperately or provided by customer with ELA

* additional Warranty/support available

** Vcloud suite is recommended but any MGT S/W can be used