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Should I deploy Netreo as a virtual or hardware appliance?

While this is generally something that Netreo’s engineering team will address with you during the pre-sales process, it does come up often enough that it’s worth discussing here so that you can better understand the differences.

Regardless of which platform you choose, Netreo is designed as an appliance, which means it’s designed to integrate the software with the operating system, databases and onboard libraries for maximum performance and stability. It is deployed as an “atomic” unit, meaning that there are no additional databases to manage, license or configure–and no other separate software to install.

So, when would you want to install one over the other?

If you don’t already have a VMware ESX/vSphere environment, the problem is solved for you, as it almost never makes sense to deploy VMware just to support Netreo. The licensing and hardware costs are prohibitive compared to the costs of simply deploying a dedicated hardware appliance. If you already have a VMware environment in place and you have some excess capacity, then you should consider the following pros and cons.

Virtual Appliance Advantages:

  • Faster Deployment
    • No hardware to ship, install and deploy. You can download a virtual appliance and start immediately.
  • Flexible Scaling
    • VMware makes it easy to add more resources as/when needed—but, only up to a point. Netreo is very I/O intensive, so if your VMware infrastructure lacks I/O bandwidth, Netreo can tax it heavily.
  • Easy Migration
    • If you relocate your data center, it’s trivial to migrate your Netreo deployment.
  • Redundancy and Disaster Recovery
    • Infrastructure for redundancy already deployed for VMware will seamlessly extend to Netreo. It is possible to add these functions to the hardware appliance, but at an extra cost.
  • Price
    • There is no extra cost for a virtual appliance (just the software licensing), so you save the cost of the hardware appliance.

Virtual Appliance Disadvantages:

  • Resource Intensive
    • If you don’t already have considerable free resources in VMware, adding additional hardware and licenses to support Netreo would not be cost effective compared to dedicated hardware. Netreo is a powerful, 24×7 application that will take considerable processing and I/O resources to run effectively, and the resources dedicated to Netreo will not have much spare horsepower to share with other virtual guests — which can affect their performance, too.
  • Scalability
    • Very large or intensive environments (such as extensive NetFlow or large IP telephony deployments) may not be well served with a virtual appliance deployment.
  • Consolidation
    • Monitoring your infrastructure (such as the VM servers) from within the virtual environment can create single points of failure. Large surges in processing demand from other virtual guests can cause the alerting and monitoring functions of Netreo to be adversely affected.

Please note: Whichever platform you choose, Netreo is designed so that you can migrate to new platforms without much trouble, so it’s perfectly acceptable to deploy a virtual appliance and then migrate to hardware afterward; or to deploy a hardware appliance and migrate to a larger hardware appliance—or even to a virtual appliance.

As always, if you are unsure or have other questions, please feel free to contact Netreo Support.