Hyper convergence is not new, and the concept of having a virtualized, software-defined compute and network resources is something that has been in existence for a long time. However, it is only in the last few years that enterprise IT is realizing the benefits of Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) in terms of IT simplicity, performance and cost benefits. The market for HCI has been growing at a fair clip recently. According to IDC, the market for hyper converged systems would be near USD 6.4 billion by 2020.
At its heart, hyper convergence takes a different path from the traditional three-tier architecture that enterprise IT has followed for more than three decades. HCIs put all resources – the hypervisor, compute, and storage – into industry standard x86 resources, under the hypervisor. Storage is software defined and part of the server, making it extremely agile, easier to configure and simpler to manage, as compared to three-tier architectures.
HCI therefore becomes a great opportunity for CIOs to move away from traditional siloed systems and create a leaner, scalable and sustainable technology environment. Here are a few ways in which it reduces enterprise IT complexity:
- It is extremely simple to deploy, configure, manage and scale, through a centralized interface. IT teams can deploy VMs and run analytics in a few clicks.
- Brings enterprise class security, predictability and consistency, and minimizes hardware issues.
- Allows the enterprise to build a scalable, software driven environment, providing scale, speed-to-market and cost benefits, similar to cloud infrastructure
One of the key drivers of the growing interest in HCI is its strong alignment to another fast growing paradigm – the private cloud. Worldwide, private cloud adoption is seeing significant upward movement. CIOs are realizing that there are significant ROI benefits from using private clouds for static workloads over a period of 3 to 5 years. HCI offers organizations with a simple, cost effective way to create and manage their private cloud.
At present, HCI can be implemented in three ways:
- Pre-optimized Appliances: Many leading HCI vendors offer the entire suite of infrastructure components – compute, storage and network resources – in a tightly integrated box. This ‘appliance’ based approach provides economies of scale and reduced complexity. Leading technology companies like Nutanix, SimpliVity (Acquired of HP Enterprise), Cisco Systems, Dell and VMWare (including the recently acquired EMC) have been very active in this space, and have launched a number of HCI appliances.
- In-House Commodity Servers: With the ability to use the OpenStack platform on commodity servers, organizations have the opportunity to reuse existing hardware assets to setup their own HCI environment. This tends to be far more cost-effective as compared to standard appliances, but may involve a higher degree of infrastructure management. Platforms like RedHat OpenStack and Suse OpenStack have become popular options for HCI implementations.
- Cloud Service Providers: Companies like Netmagic offer preconfigured and managed HCI services on commodity infrastructure. This is a highly feasible option for organizations that need to start at a smaller scale with HCI investments, without having to purchase HCI appliances or alter their existing IT environment.
IT departments must grasp the opportunity to build greater agility and unlock greater value from their current infrastructure, through HCI. Critically, CIOs must leverage their trusted infrastructure partners and CSPs to get greater clarity around available HCI options and the best fit solution for specific performance, availability and cost requirements.