Hyperconverged infrastructure adoption is on the rise for organizations looking to build a sustainable digital workspace. In fact, according to a 2018 study conducted by analyst firm ESG on behalf of Dell EMC and Intel, the majority of digitally transformed companies — 86 percent — report using both HCI and converged infrastructure.
HCI appeals to organizations that want to simplify IT operations, but inadequate network support and undersizing often prevent them from truly realizing the full benefits of the technology. Before adopting HCI, consider the following steps to actualize its full potential.
Consider Your Current Ecosystem and Future IT Environment
HCI can meet the demands of many applications and workloads, in addition to serving as a flexible and agile foundation for future IT initiatives. But before expanding centrally managed branch office locations, balancing applications and workloads in a hybrid cloud environment, or turning up cloud native applications, IT decision-makers should have a clear vision of their future needs. HCI system software and purpose-built hardware, with automated networking and centralized, transparent management is a future-ready foundation upon which long-term goals can be achieved.
Before taking a step forward, however, organizations step back to review their current IT ecosystem. All too often, organizations fail to consider how HCI can leverage and integrate with their current IT infrastructure — including investments in management tools and solutions from other vendors — and what will complement existing platforms.
Adding HCI solutions that fit within the current environment and address business needs will prepare existing systems to adapt and scale, whether deploying in the core data center, at the edge, or in a multicloud environment. This creates a seamless, flexible experience that delivers agility, less unplanned downtime and lower cost of operations.
Prioritize Network, Storage and Planned System Downtime
Networking cannot be overlooked when it comes to deploying HCI, as the abstraction of storage and compute means the network must be more agile than ever to grow with the HCI environment. Businesses have many options when it comes to networking and HCI deployments, and the lines are blurring as vendors significantly advance automating network deployment, expansion and management.
IT organizations may leverage their current networking investments; deploy new, smart switches that can seamlessly automate the network deployment and expand along with an evolving HCI deployment; or choose an integrated system with physical and virtual networking included. Understanding the level of networking integration (as well as management and support) needed is important to properly plan for an HCI deployment. Part of that planning should include thinking about storage.
The best way to size a solution — HCI or otherwise — is to base it on actual workloads using a quality data collection tool. If that is not an option, size it based on expected loads. Select a tolerable percentage of the business’ most demanding day, and size for that. Also, while sizing is critical to a successful deployment, one the intrinsic values of HCI systems is the ability to scale easily and quickly as demands grow.
When monitoring its HCI solution deployment, Dell found many customers running HCI but still keeping maintenance work to specific maintenance downtime windows. These customers know the solution is designed for nondisruptive upgrades, but they are still concerned with multicomponent failure events.
Choosing the Best HCI Approach to Meet Needs
Organizations can adopt HCI in different ways, from building it themselves to acquiring turnkey solutions. The “build it” approach offers more flexibility in configuring the individual components to be assembled, and organizations with the right IT expertise and timelines might chose this route. Others interested in speed and simplicity will “buy” IT solutions and leverage pretested, fully integrated configurations and lifecycle support.
IT Transformation is an ongoing journey and using HCI solutions is ideal to accelerate the process. These deployment practices help organizations receive the most out of their investments, especially when using an HCI expert to ask the tough questions that may help avoid potential missteps.