The buzz around Hyperconverged infrastructure is unmistakable. Since its introduction 2-3 years ago, hyper-converged infrastructure has become one of the fastest-growing methods for IT deployment.
What Gartner says:
Gartner expects Hyper-convergence to go from zero in 2012 to a $5 billion market by 2019, becoming the category leader by revenue in pre-integrated full-stack infrastructure products. The category also includes reference architectures, integrated infrastructure, and integrated stacks
What is Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCIS)?
Hyper-Converged Infrastructure is a further evolution of converged infrastructure paradigm. It is the next step in the evolution of IT architectures.
Simply put, Hyper-converged solutions are software defined systems with tightly integrated storage, networking and compute resources. HCIS solutions are primarily about Software-defined storage structures with lesser emphasis on networking. HCIS seeks to combine the advantages of converged infrastructure, virtualization and software-defined storage technologies to improve IT organization.
All the necessary components of an HCIS – servers, storage systems, virtualization software, networking, and management – are fully integrated and packed together onto a single, highly available appliance. Such an integration of systems and their management through a single system can significantly simplify IT administration. Hyper-convergence abstracts layers of infrastructure to gain simplicity and elasticity. It does this by bringing together compute, hypervisor I/O control, and storage entities. Hyper-convergence lets administrators manage multiple tasks from a single unified management interface. Management of computing resources, disk assignments, virtual machines, and the underlay network configuration is all brought onto one dashboard for easy management, saving time and effort for IT administrators.
Why is it ‘Hot’?
“Decisions for technology investments have migrated from the data center to the boardroom, shifting from technology capabilities to business outcomes.” – Forrester
IT departments with data centers under their care are interested in HCIS because it lets them cater to a new set of business demands and work with new software development approaches like continuous delivery and Microservices architectures.
The business and technology context is driving change
- Faster-time-to Market: IT departments are under pressure to provision resources instantly
- Scalability: Applications that suit scale-out systems built using commodity components are increasing.
Data Deluge: Storage efficiency is essential to reduce data ownership and maintenance costs. Software-Defined storage promises great efficiency gains
- IoT is the future: Rapid deployment and scalability and storage efficiency will be needed in the IoT era. The growth in volume of data is expected to be unpredictable in the IoT era.
- Agile-lean-DevOps: New Software development methods such as agile-lean practices and the DevOps movement hinge on a high degree of flexibility from IT. These methods cannot tolerate the IT provisioning delays of the earlier methods.
Why HCIS Is Right Up Your Alley?
Here are a few reasons why CIO’s and IT managers love HCIS
- Reduces data center costs
Hyperconverged solutions consume lesser floor space, lowering data center rental costs. They also reduce operational costs and environmental impacts as there is lesser power consumption and heat production.
- Faster deployments & Rapid scalability
Deployment & System Integration become easy and cost effective. Traditional IT took weeks if not months to deploy whereas HCIS brings that down to hours.
- Automated deployment
IT managers can automate many lower level IT tasks using hyper-converged systems. Tasks like h/w identification, h/w inventory status and firmware updates. HCIS provides IT admin with dashboard driven interface that helps them manage resources with ease.
- Increases operational efficiency and employee productivity
Cost and time savings are proportional to degree of hyper-convergence achieved. Time spent managing storage can reduce from 1-2 hrs /day to 1-2 hrs/month. With the volume of data set to grow continuously, this could bring huge efficiency gains.
- High reliability
Each component on the HCIS is put through a massive series of tests to ensure its functioning optimally. The entire integrated suite of components if also tested rigorously to ascertain it works as expected.
- Low external dependencies
HCIS solutions seamlessly integrate data management, networking and hypervisor functionality greatly reducing dependencies on external infrastructure.
How Hyper-convergence helped Fujifilm
At the EMC World conference 2016, companies that have introduced integrated systems in their data centers shared their experiences on its impact on business. Fujifilm Medical Systems USA was one such early adopter who shared their experience of why and how Hyperconverged solutions simplified data center IT ops for them.
Fujifilm Medical’s operations involve acquisition, storage and processing images for healthcare sector. They used the VxRail Appliance launched by EMC and VMware. The simplicity of deploying and managing the VxRail Appliance meant engineers were free to focus more on core business functions like helping customers deploy IT and imaging solutions that impact patient care directly.
Hyper converged solutions helped Fujifilm lower costs, speed up their business operations and also reap efficiency gains (IT engineers focus more on customer support than on IT deployment).
What Makes IT Work
“Any solution that provides the desired level of simplicity while meeting the rigors of data center performance demands will find purchase among end users”- Gartner’s survey predicting the emergence of HCIS as the fastest-growing segment of the overall market for integrated systems seems to underscore the fact. Gartner expects the HCIS market to capture 25% of the integrated systems market by 2019 clocking $ 5 billion in sales.
Unless you need to push the technology envelope constantly, getting a HCIS makeover for your data center is in order.
How to choose a HCIS solution?
But all hyper-converged solutions are not the same. The market is seeing the entry of multiple vendors with differentiated HCIS offerings. Once you decide on the specification, it’s time to evaluate vendors to determine which one fits your specification.
To get the best ROI from HCIS deployments, choosing the right vendor is crucial.
Check if your vendor satisfies/provides these basics:
- Supports mixed architecture: Organizations will need to look for a HCIS solution that will integrate with the existing server and storage assets and not split data center assets into two silos: Legacy and HCIS.
- Scalability: Easy scalability is key to data center growth. Reduces downtime in scaling and takes the guesswork out of data center planning. It does so by enabling “just-in-time” data center growth.
- Portability: Data center architecture should support data transfer between HCIS and non-HCIS systems
- Multiple Hypervisor Support: If the business requires a solution that supports multiple Hypervisor than the chosen solution should extend this feature
- Data protection: Vendor should provide complete data protection against data loss due to either human error or h/w failure or natural / manmade disasters. Look for features like RAID or mirroring, single-site replication and disaster recovery capabilities.
- Aim for Zero Downtime: Even small businesses now require high levels of availability. Make sure HCIS has resilience and automated failover mechanisms to ensure continuous availability.
However, if the world of HCIS is comparatively new and not well-understand, it’s best to rope in experts to guide your HCIS transition.
When deployed correctly, and with the right solution, hyper-converged infrastructure is a compelling architectural choice that can transform the way that IT does business.