Data center managers have faced massive changes to traditional data center infrastructure over the past decade, from software-defined networking and edge computing to 5G networks and AI. These innovations change the makeup and requirements of enterprise data centers. They also place greater demands on data center staff, who must research, configure, implement, and maintain these new technologies. Innovation brings fresh opportunities, but it also makes the work of data center managers considerably more complex.
There is one new technology, however, that promises to simplify data center architecture and make it easier to manage. Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) consolidates IT resources such as storage, memory, and processing into uniform building blocks, which are sold as either hardware appliances or virtual HCI stacks.
HCI uses off-the-shelf commodity components--typically x86 boxes, equipped with identical networking and storage hardware, hypervisor, and management software. Each unit or appliance serves as a miniature data center in a box, which can be scaled up by simply attaching more boxes. This modular infrastructure enables organizations to build new, more streamlined data centers or quickly add resources to an existing data center.
The demand for HCI is growing rapidly. The global market for HCI products and services was estimated at $6.1 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $44.2 billion by 2027. Adoption of HCI is rising the most among organizations that need to reduce their IT costs, speed-up data center deployments, simplify IT management and operations, or create a more scalable and flexible infrastructure capable of easily meeting future IT demands.
HCI evolved from the concept of converged infrastructure (CI), which is a collection of preconfigured hardware and software that an IT manager can purchase and install themselves. It’s somewhat like a make-your-own-tacos kit that comes with packets of sauce, spices, cheese, and taco shells in a single box. With CI, IT managers avoid having to check for hardware compatibilities, order from multiple vendors, and configure everything from scratch.
HCI takes converged infrastructure one step farther by assembling and integrating all of the parts into a plug-and-play unit—more like a TV dinner than a DIY kit. If your HCI-built data center needs more capacity, just buy more HCI units. This ease of scalability gives enterprises the ability to expand very quickly to meet an organization’s changing needs.
Key advantages of HCI within a data center infrastructure
In addition to scalability, HCI appliances offer four other key advantages in data center design and management.
Most HCI appliances are based on off-the-shelf x86 servers, which helps enterprises dramatically cut costs and lower procurement complexities. The organization just needs to procure one type of device instead of separate proprietary storage arrays, controllers, and networking components every time they need to add capacity. This single-vendor approach means that businesses can get technical help much faster and implement patches and upgrades more smoothly, without confusion and a multitude of calls to different suppliers.
In a software-defined data center, infrastructure components are treated as services. These virtual infrastructure services can be managed and configured remotely, allowing IT to provide more, or less, storage capacity, memory, processing power, and other software-defined resources as needed. The software-defined infrastructure of HCI means that data center resources can be updated on demand.
Hyperconverged infrastructure optimizes the usage of compute, storage, and network resources by treating them as pooled resources within clusters. Should one type of workload or application demand more memory, storage capacity, or processing power, the unused resources on other clustered HCI appliances can provide it. Unified management allows these assets to be discovered, pooled, and provisioned to applications based on need.
All aspects of the HCI appliance – the computing capacity, file storage, memory, and network connectivity – are managed through a single console. HCI clusters, both local and remote, are administered together, greatly simplifying IT management.
IT organizations that choose the HCI model also gain advantages in terms of IT labor costs and productivity. IT teams need not wrestle with system deployment, integration, upkeep of individual hardware components, and other data center management challenges that are common with three-tier data center infrastructure.
In addition, organizations have less need for IT specialists in areas like storage and networking. With HCI, IT generalists can handle most of the work, reducing the cost of expensive consultants.
HCI empowers cloud development
Flexibility, scalability, and ease of management are all important in cloud infrastructure. Organizations developing their own private clouds can benefit from using HCI as it nearly eliminates the need to vet multiple hardware products, configure them, and deploy individual compute, storage, and network components. The labor savings gives IT staff more time to work on cloud application development and other business-critical IT projects.
Likewise, HCI’s rapid scalability and compact infrastructure is gaining traction among public cloud providers who are incorporating HCI into their own infrastructure and also developing products based on HCI.
Cloud providers are exploring more ways to create niche HCI platforms and services targeted at unique use cases. Providers have HCI solutions tailored for specific uses, such as data center consolidation, private cloud development, edge computing, remote office infrastructure, and virtual desktop environments. AI is another use case that could benefit from a customized HCI platform. While HCI doesn’t solve all infrastructure issues, it does promise to be a useful alternative for organizations seeking to simplify their data center infrastructure or address specific IT use cases quickly and efficiently.
Exploring Hyperconverged Infrastructure for your environment?
TierPoint offers support and consulting services on HCI and other infrastructure questions. We also provide HCI solutions, powered by our Hosted Private Cloud, and in our over 40 data centers across the U.S. We also provide a full menu of disaster recovery services, colocation, cloud and security solutions. Contact us to see how we can help you assess and find the right solutions for your IT environment.