Containers are becoming very popular because they offer a way to 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 increased application density. 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 “state-full” container environment for Windows.
DH2i is a self-funded, Colorado-based company that was founded in 2010 and launched its first product in 2012. 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. DxEnterprise supports any editions of SQL Server 2005 – 2016 and Oracle for Windows 11gR2 and 12cR2.
DxEnterprise runs on Windows Server 2008R2 – 2016, bare-metal, in a VM or in the cloud, abstracting existing workloads and containerizing them. Like Docker and other containers the DH2i Vhost is lightweight, sharing the OS with the host and other containers, allowing much higher density than VMs.
Traditional containers are also 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 container from one host and rebind to the new host. This effectively pauses and restarts the service, like quiescing a database.
DH2i runs on Windows Server, 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. This allows DH2i containers to be used in development and testing and then moved into production. To date DH2i has been certified to run with the Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure solution.
Technologies like software-defined and hyperconverged have provided a way to cut hardware costs by consolidating traditional server and storage infrastructures and using industry standard platforms. But companies are also very interested in reducing software costs. By increasing application density on server hosts and replacing the hypervisor, containers are a step in that direction.
The “killer app” for containers seems to be software development and test, or DevOps, the practice of speeding up new product cycles by creating a continuous flow from software development through production. The problem has been persistence and storage.
DH2i seems to address this by making Vhosts persistent and providing portable, persistent access to NTFS volumes on traditional storage resources. DxEnterprise provides monitoring with policy-based event handling to create a unified Windows HA solution for Oracle and MS SQL Server.
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 should look into DH2i for their Windows environments.