IT Focus Area: infrastructure operations
October 5, 2017
Hyperconvergence: More than Just Software-defined Storage
Companies have been designing and building their own server and storage infrastructure since the rise of open systems in the late 1980s. In the early days, the systems were relatively simple by today’s standards. Over the last 10-15 years, the systems have become extremely complex to design, build and manage.
Each system was like designing and building your own car: You had to design the vehicle, pick out the parts, assemble the parts, and then maintain it all. That added a lot of extra time and labor when all you really wanted from the car itself was to get to the office and back home each day.
Converged infrastructure emerged around 2009 and eliminated the design and build process. You could order what you wanted within a model line and, in a month or two, you get a completely assembled and delivered system. Time to value got reduced from months to just weeks.
However, the complexity of monitoring, managing and operating remains the same. Interdependencies throughout all the components restrict the ability to innovate and adjust quickly to market demands. Converged infrastructure filled a real need helping customers get out of the design & build process.
A completely software-defined architecture. Features are added automatically in the background in the same way the public cloud providers provide new services to be consumed. Hyperconverged is not just a vehicle to get you back and forth, but a platform that can be built upon and enhanced by the manufacturer.
During hurricane Irma, Tesla transmitted a hot patch to all vehicles in Florida to give them a temporary performance enhancement increasing mileage so people could evacuate and reduce the need for a charging cycle. A fully software defined platform like this is how hyperconvergence is changing the game in IT.
What Is Hyperconvergence?
Hyperconvergence is the virtualization of storage combined with CPU, memory and a hypervisor.
In 1998, VMware virtualized the server and created the virtual machine. Before VMWare – we ran one OS, on one server, running one workload in the x86 world. Often these machines had sub 10% utilization. Virtualization initially created efficiencies via server consolidation and an overall reduction in equipment. It has provided us the ability to put workloads anywhere.
This level of virtualization had never really happened in the storage space until now. Low cost SSDs that can supply the IOPS of large controller-based arrays have made it cost effective to virtualize storage, thereby eliminating hardware-based controllers, SAN and 3 tier designs.
Software-defined storage, engineered with virtualization and systems hardware provides a public cloud like experience by removing many layers of complexity found in traditional storage architectures.
What Problems Does HCI Solve?
What If I Do Nothing ?
- Your business will lose its competitive edge if you cannot service the business faster and reduce overhead required to maintain systems that have become increasingly complex to manage
- Most customers say 70% of their budget is used to “Keep the lights on”
- That number increases as budgets get reduced
- You may be forced into a cloud first strategy
The 3 Biggest Barriers to Adoption
Although hyperconvergence offers a number of benefits, many enterprises are cautious of adopting the technology. Here are three barriers that can hold you back from a more agile IT environment:
1. Business as usual: Most corporate IT cultures have been built over decades. They have depended upon specialized skills that have been organized into silos--silos with names such as server, storage, and network. Hyperconverged solutions combine these functions, thereby changing and disrupting how IT is structured and how it runs. As a result, deciding to deploy hyperconvergence often requires many groups to weigh in--which can slow your transformation.
2. New operational models: Hyperconverged infrastructure is a gateway to a private cloud. Since smaller organizations have fewer teams to coordinate, they have adopted hyperconvergence and private clouds quickly. Larger enterprises are much less nimble and are unable to easily transition staff members with siloed expertise into stack managers. This makes it harder for enterprises to quickly obtain the benefits of private cloud.
3. Cloud-first Strategy: In a rush by corporate execs to “push it to the cloud first,” many have not realized the promise of better/faster/cheaper when looking to bring workloads back in-house. Cloud-first can slow adoption for HCI until a true hybrid cloud architecture is built.
Enterprises need to overcome these barriers to stay competitive in a global marketplace. Today’s business environment requires faster time to value for applications and projects. When IT doesn’t respond quickly enough, shadow IT pops up, exposing companies to new security and availability risks. Hyperconverged technology can help you overcome long deployment cycles, reduce administrative overhead, and increase agility.
Use Cases for Hyperconverged Infrastructure
Opportunities to Introduce HCI into Your Datacenter
3 Things to Look for in a Hyperconverged Solution
All hyperconverged solutions are not created equal. Hyperconvergence providers have vastly different technologies, roadmaps and corporate philosophies. These variations can make it challenging to find the right solution for your enterprise.
1. Mature Virtualization Platform: All manufacturers can scale to 10-100 virtual machines. But what happens if you need 1,000 or 10,000 virtual machines? Compare the number of nodes you need with the maximum nodes that an HCI manufacturer supports in a cluster. Also pay attention to the available options for memory, storage, and CPU in each node. Can you intermix different sized nodes, or must all of your nodes be identical?
2. Enterprise-class functionality: Look for a hyperconverged solution that offers data services matching your traditional storage environment and can become an enabler for a hybrid cloud strategy. Scalability that can grow beyond your existing environment and the ability to support upcoming technologies such as NVMe and 3D XPoint .
3. Ease of use: Your hyperconverged solution should provide a single user interface such as vCenter with centralized administration. It should be simple to install, automated, easy to upgrade, and a snap to maintain.
How to Pick the Best Solution When the Market Is Changing Rapidly
The hyperconvergence market is moving quickly. Over the next few years, manufacturers will race to become enterprises’ HCI platform of choice. Many of the smaller players will disappear or get acquired. Look to strategic partners and advisors to help you understand the market and manufacturers, and move toward accelerating your IT infrastructure.