With its simplicity and ease of use, hyperconverged infrastructure has become a favored solution for organizations of all sizes as they deploy data center upgrades. HCI deployments totaled nearly $2 billion globally in the first quarter of 2020 alone, an increase of 8.3 percent from the same period last year, even as the economy began sinking into a recession, according to IDC.
But for businesses still running on legacy three-tier architecture and on the fence about whether hyperconverged infrastructure makes sense for them, a simple question emerges repeatedly: What is the real advantage of HCI over legacy infrastructure?
At its annual Global .NEXT Digital Experience user conference, which runs through Sept. 11, Nutanix technical and marketing leaders argued that HCI offers organizations three critical benefits: simplicity of deployment and management, easy workload scalability, and a common platform for all workloads and across all clouds.
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The Difference Between Legacy Architecture and HCI
“Legacy infrastructure is centered around storage area networks, which is monolithic, centralized storage that’s accessed by application servers over the network,” explained Steve Carter, a senior product marketing manager at Nutanix. To work properly, each layer of legacy architecture — compute, storage and networking — must be configured correctly and managed closely.
That results in a technically complex and siloed infrastructure that leads to increased downtime and makes scaling difficult.
Chris Jones, a technical product manager specializing in platform infrastructure for Nutanix, noted that because of this complexity, the timeline for a legacy architecture deployment is typically measured in months or quarters, compared with minutes for HCI.
“We solve this problem by fully automating the deployment of an environment, from a bare-metal node that you procure from a factory up to a fully working environment in less than an hour,” Jones said.
HCI eliminates the need for SAN storage by moving storage directly to the server and distributing storage control across the cluster.
“This results in an efficient, distributed architecture that simplifies management while improving resilience and maximizing performance,” Carter said. “So now each administrator can manage their environment with minimal effort and without the need to coordinate across silos.”
Why Scaling HCI Networks Is Simple
Scaling HCI as the business grows is easier too. Traditional architecture requires procuring and configuring the particular SAN hardware and servers depending on the business requirements. As the business grows, adding new servers and SANs doesn’t add as much capacity as businesses expect, meaning performance declines relative to architecture size, Jones said.
“The bottleneck here is the capacity and capability of the actual storage controllers themselves,” he noted. “The storage controllers have not scaled with the SAN. That has added capacity, which is something that might be used by the environment, but it’s a wasted investment when it comes to application performance, which drops off over time.”
HCI scales in a linear fashion. Organizations get more capacity simply by adding nodes.
HCI also has disaster recovery benefits built in. Organizations can set up a dedicated failover site with data replicated synchronously and can recover data using automated recovery plans. Disaster Recovery as a Service enables organizations to replicate data to the cloud without standing up a backup site.
“The infrastructure and process powering all the capabilities are managed from the same web-based user interface that you use to manage the rest of your environment,” Carter said. “So it makes keeping everything protected really easy.”
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