Containers can deliver on many of the benefits of server virtualization, at a lower cost than hypervisors. By abstracting the OS on a host and sharing it they greatly increase application density and eliminate the need to buy a guest OS license for each VM. Containers also provide application mobility by making it easy to restart services on a new host. The drawback to containers is storage and persistence. DH2i is addressing this issue with DxEnterprise, by providing a container-like environment for Windows and now Linux operating systems that allows native database instances, Docker containers and application services to be transparently moved between hosts.
DxEnterprise v17.5 runs on bare-metal servers, in a VM or in the cloud, encapsulating existing workloads and containerizing them. Like Docker, the DH2i Vhost is lightweight, sharing the OS with the host and other containers, allowing much higher density than VMs. But unlike containers, it’s also state-full, allowing a server instance to be stopped, moved to another host and restarted, without impacting connected users or applications.
Traditional containers are designed to be mobile. But instead of moving applications or services between hosts, platforms like Docker actually kill the application and restart it on the new host, abstracting the installation process and making it much faster than restarting a virtual machine, for example. Vhosts don’t stop the service or process, but unbind the network address associated with a Vhost from one host and rebind it to the new host. By managing this “connection string” to the outside world, and maintaining persistent storage, DH2i effectively pauses and restarts the service, like quiescing a database.
DH2i runs on Windows Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS and Ubuntu, mimicking a standard disk manager to provide persistent storage services for Vhosts using any type of storage. This can be direct attached storage, network attached storage or software-defined/hyperconverged storage, allowing DH2i Vhosts to be used in development and testing on one platform and then moved into production on another. To date DH2i has been certified to run with the Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure solution.
DH2i is a self-funded, Colorado-based company that was founded in 2010 and launched its first product in 2011. Their initial use case was Windows database environments allowing companies to consolidate SQL Server implementations onto fewer hosts, reducing the number of OS instances by a factor of 10 and software and infrastructure related costs by 50-70%, according to published information. Now, with Linux support, DxEnterprise can support a wider variety of use cases.
With DxEnterprise, a company can move application instances between host servers in less than a minute, providing high availability for multiple production servers using a single failover Vhost. This process can also be done between local and remote sites, providing a disaster recovery capability with these same economic benefits. In a test/dev environment, applications can be developed on one platform and transferred to another for production, even between Windows and Linux servers in some cases. Vhosts can be running locally, in a remote data center or in the cloud, providing a hybrid cloud environment for DR, backup or DevOps. Replication between Vhosts is handled by the application (like databases) or using the native storage system replication service.
DH2i is combining the benefits of Smart Availability, server virtualization and containers, providing the software savings and light weight of containers and the persistence and portability of VMs. While this does commit the user to the DH2i platform, it does so with a higher degree of flexibility, now with the addition of Linux support. Instead of moving data to the workload, DxEnterprise moves workloads to the data. This can provide a solution for environments where data governance restricts the movement of data sets.
Initially a tool for lowering the cost of running high-end database environments, DH2i can be an appealing solution for HA and DR as well. It also provides an alternative to traditional container platforms in test and development environments by making Vhosts state-full and providing portable, persistent access to native file system (NTFS/ext4/xfs) volumes on traditional storage resources.
This is a unique company in the technology space. Without taking outside investment they’ve remained small, but have a number of large customers, including John Hancock, Manulife and BHP. Companies considering containers, DevOps and cloud-native development, or just interested in lowering infrastructure costs, should look into DH2i for their Windows, Oracle and now Linux environments.