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Rapid Desktop Appliance is a converged infrastructure system, whereas Virtual SAN Ready Nodes and EVO:RAIL are both hyper-converged offerings, so the differences between these three VMware products boil down to how converged and hyper-converged infrastructure function.
Both types of systems provide a unified infrastructure for handling compute, storage and networking resources, which makes delivering virtualization easier than if you assemble the components yourself. That's because the hardware and software are configured and tuned to work together, which in turn optimizes performance.
A converged system takes a hardware-based approach to delivering VDI, compared to hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), which takes a software-based approach. The components in a converged system are optimized to work together, but you can also use each one separately for other purposes. On the other hand, the components in a hyper-converged system are so tightly integrated that you cannot isolate them. That also means you can't upgrade individual HCI components without upgrading the entire system.
Because Rapid Desktop Appliance is the only converged system VMware offers, it is a different sort of animal from the company's other two products. The appliance comes with the necessary storage, compute and networking resources, as well as the VMware software needed to implement a complete VDI environment. Each component is certified and validated to work together, providing a much simpler alternative to assembling the components to support VDI on your own.
The two hyper-converged infrastructure platforms, Virtual SAN Ready Nodes and EVO:RAIL, take the guesswork out of VDI to an even greater degree.
EVO:RAIL is faster and easier to implement and requires the least expertise, with all licensing and support included in a single package. Until recently, EVO:RAIL licensing was a contentious issue, because VMware would not honor existing vSphere licenses, which the appliance requires. VMware has since relented because of the collective sticker shock among its enterprise customers. You can now also use licenses purchased separately through Enterprise Licensing Agreements (ELAs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other authorized channels.
Virtual SAN Ready Nodes are different from the others in that they are certified server configurations that companies can use as a building block for hyper-converged infrastructure. For that reason, Ready Nodes provide more flexibility in terms of vendor options, configuration choices and licensing portability. Virtual SAN Ready Nodes are available via OEMs, such as Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo and Supermicro.
Each of VMware's three offerings for converged and hyper-converged infrastructure appeal to different audiences depending on your in-house expertise, ability to maintain the system over the long haul, how much money your organization is comfortable spending and how much flexibility you require.
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HCI presents some operational challenges
Comparing EVO:RAIL and Virtual SAN
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