Hyperconverged infrastructures (HCIs) offer IT managers the promise of being able to quickly deploy and support virtualized workloads within tightly integrated platforms.
These platforms include computing, storage, networking and virtualization capabilities, all pre-integrated and controlled by a single management layer. Because these core IT components are so tightly integrated, administrators spend less time launching new resources and more time applying them to business needs.
“A hyperconverged solution is a blank slate” for IT shops, says Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
Since HCIs arrived earlier this decade, they’ve established a niche for a range of discrete applications, such as private clouds and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementations. Now, HCI is gaining even more steam among enterprise IT managers who are brainstorming about what types of workloads can benefit from hyperconvergence.
HCI implementations are on track to rise 54 percent this year at midsized and large enterprises, and growth rates will likely continue to accelerate in the months ahead, according to a report by ActualTech Media.
But while vendors promote hyperconvergence as a turnkey solution, to tap its full potential, IT managers must carefully evaluate HCI candidates, plan migrations in detail and address change management and staffing issues.
The survey by ActualTech Media found that the top incentive for HCI is an organization’s desire to reduce operational expenditures. This desire is driven by a host of new realities, industry observers say.
“This is a stressful time for most CIOs,” says Lee Caswell, vice president of products, storage and availability at VMware. “They’re facing smaller budgets and difficulties hiring and retaining skilled staff members. At the same time, requests for new services are increasing because all projects these days have an IT component. This means that the frequency of unpredictable demand is going through the roof.”
To cope, many IT managers are seeking cost controls by using HCI to consolidate digital resources that have traditionally been run separately. In addition to having to purchase, integrate and manage fewer systems, IT managers see an HCI bonus — the potential to redirect IT staff to revenue-generating activities by lightening their maintenance and management loads.
Other benefits include easy scalability of computing and storage capacity that comes from HCI’s ability to connect units to meet growing business demands. Further efficiencies arise as individual HCI units create a common resource pool that automatically allocates available IT resources on demand so workloads are free from the capacity restraints of individual appliances.
“The flexibility and scalability of hyperconverged systems means that they can be quickly deployed and placed into service, substantially speeding strategic initiatives, including digital transformation,” King says. “The fact that these solutions are fully virtualized means they can support highly scalable on-demand applications and business processes.”
This flexibility has made hyperconverged appliances a natural choice not only for private clouds and VDI, but also remote and branch offices, test and development environments, collaboration systems, and backup and recovery applications. The growing maturity of HCI technology is encouraging IT managers to use it for a wider range of applications, including database systems, Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint implementations, and enterprise resource planning suites.
“Table stakes for hyperconvergence 1.0 was all about making IT so simple you could deploy new capabilities without an army of administrators,” says Paul Miller, vice president of marketing for converged data center infrastructure at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “2.0 is all about helping hyperconvergence go mainstream within enterprises.”
Bolstering this view, a survey of 250 VMware customers recently found that business-critical applications have emerged as top use cases for HCI, Caswell says.
But creating islands of discrete applications isn’t the only option with HCI. Many enterprises are now mixing and matching workloads with similar performance requirements within the same clusters. For example, Nutanix enables enterprises to combine virtualized and nonvirtualized workloads, as well as VDI desktops and file services within a consolidated deployment. “This eliminates the need to have separate silos within your data center,” says Prabu Rambadran, director of product marketing at the company.
Databases are another prime target for consolidation. Instead of running a few dozen SQL databases on a variety of separate systems, administrators can manage them within a virtual farm dedicated to a specific department or division.
To learn more about how converged and hyperconverged systems can boost your data center operations, visit CDW’s Converged Infrastructure web page.