Hyperconverged infrastructure basics
Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) is a promising development for digital transformation projects, as well as IT departments that are frustrated by cumbersome, legacy IT infrastructures. Unlike traditional three-tier infrastructure, HCI offers greater flexibility and scalability—both of which are critical capabilities for organizations engaged in digital transformation.
Hyperconverged Infrastructure is a software-defined “platform-in-a-box” with tightly integrated services deployed on inexpensive x86 hardware. An HCI appliance includes infrastructure and platform services, including software-defined storage, hypervisor for virtualized computing, operating system, and virtualized networking. These turnkey platforms are well suited for uses such as shared storage clusters, private cloud development, software defined data centers or cloud or virtualization development.
In contrast, traditional three-tier IT infrastructures usually have disparate hardware and software, from multiple vendors, and a mix of old and new technologies. As the organization’s needs grow and change, legacy IT infrastructures can’t always keep pace.
“IT departments have to be more agile and these Hyperconverged Infrastructure platforms can meet that requirement more easily than the traditional three-tier infrastructure,” noted Ryle Edwards, Solutions Engineer for SHI.
Edwards, along with Mike Piccininni, Dell EMC’s senior manager for global alliances in North America, and TierPoint’s Dave McKenney, the director of product management, recently hosted a webinar on current and future developments in Hyperconverged infrastructure.
According to these panelists, HCI solutions are easy to manage, with a simple interface that eliminates the need for IT specialists. That’s helpful for companies with small IT staffs. In addition, they offer fast deployment and scalability, and make planning ahead easier as well.
“You can start your transformation without having to guess where you’re going to be in three or five years,” Piccininni said. “It’s ‘pay as you grow.’”
The future of Hyperconverged Infrastructure
HCI’s growing popularity is underscored by IDC’s prediction that the market will see major growth in the coming years.
Two trends are helping to make the technology more appealing: the increasing number of use cases for HCI appliances, and the growing number of software makers who are having their applications validated for HCI platforms.
More ways to deploy Hyperconverged Infrastructure
Hyperconverged infrastructure vendors are adding more services to their stack to expand the use cases and value of their products. Today, HCI appliances are already available to meet a range of needs, including edge computing—such as for moving heavy data processing or video closer to end-users—or for branch office infrastructure, virtual desktop environments, server consolidation, and private clouds.
“More and more services are being rolled into hyperconverged platforms,” said McKenney.
That trend will continue, adding additional services such as artificial intelligence for needs such as AI Ops for automated IT troubleshooting or for monitoring customer digital experiences. An example is the Dell EMC VxRail HCI server which comes with an Analytical Consulting Engine.
Other HCI products may include services for data protection, cloud services integration, change management, or service desk functionality.
At the same time, more software makers are having their applications validated to run on HCI platforms. This makes it easier for customers to move more of their enterprise applications onto HCI platforms and gives them greater flexibility in how they use HCI.
Customers increasingly prefer to rely on their vendors to provide standardization and consistency in HCI products, said Piccininni.
“Change is happening faster, so the more I can put the responsibility for maintaining consistency on my vendors, the better. The more bespoke things are, the harder they are to maintain in year 3 or 5 of an operation,” said Piccininni.
Edward added, “It allows you to focus on the business factors driving the service, rather than on ensuring interoperability.
While HCI isn’t for every IT use case, it can provide many organizations with the scalability and agility needed by an increasing range of environments.
“The goal is flattening out silos of technology like networking, like storage, and putting it all into a single platform where you can accomplish more complex workloads and more consistent operations,” explained Piccininni.
More on Hyperconverged Infrastructure trends
In our recent webinar, Mike also discusses the changing expectations of organizations migrating to the cloud, the new Hyperconverged infrastructure features and tools coming out, and a roadmap to enable the wave of HCI (by Dell EMC). Watch the full webinar: The New Wave of HCI: Hyperconverged Infrastructure Meets Evolving Expectations.