Thursday, 20 August 2015

Ravello announce the General Availability of InceptionSX

Ravello Systems was founded in early 2011 by the same people who created the KVM hypervisor. Rami Tamir is the CEO and he took an invited audience of vExperts through a preview of Ravello InceptionSX on a pre-launch briefing early in August 2015.

The Ravello Systems mission statement is to provide Cloud Economics (Pay as you go, on demand, endless capacity at commodity prices) for All Workloads across All Environments while Maintaining SLAs, Tools, Security etc. That's a journey they've started and it will be quite interesting to see how far this thing can go.




In 2013, Ravello launched their first product, Ravello HVX. This allowed VM workloads to operate on HVX within the AWS cloud or Google cloud. You don’t need an account with AWS or Google and Ravello chooses the cheapest option for you. You also don't obviously need to interact with either AWS or Google, that's abstracted for you. Nested virtualisation, right there.

August 18th saw the GA announcement of Ravello Inception SX, which takes the HVX model a step further and allows users to operate multi mode VMware Infrastructure (ESXi) on AWS/Google. This is done with a software emulation of the Intel VT / AMD-V functionality that hypervisors require, within the HVX platform. Now you can see where the inception name comes from, virtualisation on top of nested virtualisation .




The Beta testing for Inception started on April 14th and was seized upon by vExperts who saw the option to run homelab type workloads within the cloud. This was followed by Tech Partners and Resellers, who saw use cases for training, PoCs, deployment testing, sales demo’s etc.  Full Disclosure: vExperts get free hours on Inception every month and since there's no other solution like this out there right now, this had to be worth a look. 

The big advantage of Inception is that it is sold on a pay-when-used model, which competes well when compared to the upfront hardware cost requirements of a homelab, for instance. The beta test web page suggested that a 4 node environment comprising 2 ESXi nodes, 1 vCenter appliance and 1 shared storage appliance costs as little as $0.59/hr. Since you're utilising the Amazon or Google cloud, then there's almost no limit as to how much money you can spend.

Furthermore, as this is simply ESXi in the cloud, you don't need to learn a huge amount of new ways to do the same thing, once you have a host or two built and configured, then you can easily make more, on demand. This combines the flexibility of the cloud with the familiarity of the hypervisor you already know.

Anyone was able to sign up for a two week trial of Inception. Ravello have said that the beta saw...
  • Over 1250 users/vExperts
  • Over 1,000,000 ESXi CPU hours
  • Over 250,000 ESXi hosts
  • Over 25,000 ESXi labs published

Currently we see a 4 vCPU maximum for Ravello Virtual machines, but 8 vCPUs are coming soon and you can imagine that this will only increase, which will make the scale of ESX hosts available somewhat more realistic for corporate types of level workloads or for us vExperts to build up some pretty complex labs.

Some issues that have been seen within the beta include VMXNet3 implementation bugs, MTU issues and CPU oversubscription limits. These have been either resolved or understood and worked around. e.g. using e1000 based networking for VMs instead of the VMXNet 3 adapter has always worked fine.


Companies like Arista Networks, vArmour, Catalogic Software and Nutanix use Ravello now and spoke to the vExperts about their own reasons for doing so.

  • Arista vEOS runs virtual switches in VMs. Arista have a blueprint available for folks to implement within the Ravello repository. This blueprint is 29 VMs and is a good indication of the scale easily achievable.
  • vArmour nodes run bare metal based distributed security applications across different hypervisors and they find it very easy to demo this in the cloud rather than putting it in front of a customers production environment. Especially when they generate suspicious traffic inside the Ravello system to show how this is dealt with.
  • Catalogic Software are a data management company. Their ECX solution  deals with copy management on the customers environment. e.g. They isolate a copy of customer data from a NetApp array into NetApp Cloud Ontap within VPC inside AWS and then can feed that into Ravello to spin up all the VMs and Applications. This is all fully automated.
  • Nutanix Community Edition allows users to run Acropolis (storage, dedupe, compression, hypervisor etc.) and Prism (the management UI) at zero cost on Ravello Systems.


A whole bunch of other companies are making test systems available for users to evaluate, which  opens up a range of interesting options. A user simply needs to get hold of a blueprint and they will be able to roll out all the required VMs, I imagine that you could be given access to a custom-minted account which has everything pre-built for you.

There's also step by step getting started guides available;

Step 3: How to create an ESXi/ vSphere cluster on AWS or Google cloud

In short, if you are a vExpert, you should sign up for this immediately! If you are considering a homelab or a hardware update, give this a try first. If you just need overflow or the option to run more hosts for a few weeks, any cloud use case really, this has to be worth a look.

There is more stuff to come from Ravello Systems, watch out for this at VMworld! 




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