Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offers a fresh solution to the challenges facing modern businesses and their technology demands. The most common needs of compute, storage, networking, and resource management are traditionally met by segregated units from different vendors that are later connected to form a functional system. However, this approach faces many challenges without the seamless integration HCI virtualisation offers. Fortunately, HCI’s unified management allows a datacentre and its clients to access and manage all resources in a single environment, able to provision workloads without physical or technological restrictions.
Before we discuss hyperconvergence, we need to look at how datacentre technology has evolved and how HCI is part of a natural progression. Traditional datacentre approaches appeared first, followed by how technologies converged according to user needs and eventually how infrastructure was hyperconverged.
At first, compute, storage, and network equipment were all selected individually according to the expected workloads of the datacentre. Each type of equipment was sourced from a chosen vendor and deployed in a customised environment specific to the datacentre. This made management quite difficult since each vendor used its own software and management practices, requiring careful integration to ensure all equipment performed together as desired. As such, deployment was slow. Optimisation also suffered because it was already quite difficult to get all the moving parts to work together well.
Eventually, certain vendors realised that providing prepackaged sets of equipment from several different manufacturers encompassing all the required areas was better and the idea of convergence was born. Converged infrastructure provided datacentres with already-integrated equipment ready to deploy, removing much of the initial setup process traditionally required. Even a basic software layer to allow simpler management was provided, although it was still a challenge to find a complete synthesis between equipment from different manufacturers.
With the resounding success of convergence, vendors began looking at ways to further optimise their datacentre offerings. They discovered that forgoing equipment from multiple vendors and providing a single, hyperconverged offering of compute, storage, and network equipment further improved performance and reduced integration and deployment headaches. Software management is simplified since all the equipment can integrate and is purpose-built by a single vendor to work together. HCI also offers modular deployments, allowing easy upscaling, provisioning, and hot swapping without any reconfiguring headaches.
What HCI brings to the table
HCI manages to provide all these benefits by being more than just a prepackaged bundle of equipment. Instead, the HCI philosophy is underlined by several key benefits:
Modularity – HCI modules of many different types are installed into standardised racks, enabling rapid installation and hot-swap capabilities for any module type.
Virtualisation – virtualisation pools all resources and unifies each management task under one pane of glass, allowing easy workload handling and seamless provisioning.
Tiering – unified management allows resources to be discovered and configured into tiers based on relative performance levels with maximum efficiency.
Provisioning – standardised equipment and provisioning processes make it easy to scale resources up or down without needing to effect major change.
Simplicity – these benefits flow into one key concept: simplicity. Installation time is reduced, management is decluttered, integration is a breeze, and optimisation is practical.
The flexibility to address issues
HCI does appear to have some drawbacks that may concern some businesses. However, the nature of HCI ensures that these drawbacks are easily avoided by choosing a vendor with the right offering.
One of these potential drawbacks is wastage. Because many different types of equipment are bundled together, some workloads may not make proper use of or even need some bundled items. For example, a compute-heavy workload often doesn’t need a large amount of storage, which may leave much of the storage redundant. However, this storage can easily be shifted to other workloads where it’s needed thanks to the modularity of HCI. The right vendor will be aware of this potential pitfall when provisioning equipment for new workloads.
Another potential drawback is vendors only supporting certain specific manufacturers' equipment (known as vendor lock-in). This issue depends on the vendor chosen, and it’s best to opt for a vendor that understands the need to keep compatibility with third-party equipment open. It’s important to speak to any equipment supplier and vendor to determine to what extent interoperability and compatibility are supported.
HCI at your fingertips
Are you ready to accelerate innovation and time to market by driving unprecedented resilience, agility, and workload consolidation from your datacentre resources? With an intelligent hyperconverged infrastructure from our partners HPE and Dell EMC, all that is now within reach. With years of experience in the industry, they’re aware of all potential pitfalls and can tailor an HCI offering specifically for your business.