Hyperconverged Infrastructure: your data center for today and tomorrow
To remain relevant and profitable, businesses need to develop new digital routes to market and quick, competitive turnaround on products and deliverables. How do they achieve this? A more agile digital infrastructure. And how do they achieve that? By beginning with the data center; the critical epicentre of enterprise digital infrastructure and the first point of digital inflection driving business agility.
The demands on your data center increase every day. App developers need additional capacities for new workloads and look for faster turnaround times with lower chargebacks from IT. Enterprise CIOs are struggling to quickly expand data center capacity and meet demands to integrate with multicloud and containers, while also ensuring a faster return on investment through the more effective management of data centers.
IDC claims by 2020, over 90% of Enterprises will use multiple cloud services and platforms.
In this evolving digital environment, Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) has emerged as a key platform that enables the design and deployment of scalable data center blocks that are easier to manage than ever before. These blocks can also be integrated with emerging platforms, such as cloud and containers, without the need to rip and replace infrastructure with each technological advance.
HCI provides the agility and economics of a public cloud with the control of an on-premises deployment, combining virtualized compute, storage and networking delivered as a software-defined system. Technologists can spend less time on infrastructure and more time delivering applications that enable business growth. And as the business grows, CIOs are able to scale the data center as needed.
Hyperconverged Infrastructure: Value for Investment
Typically less expensive to purchase, implement, and operate, Hyperconverged Infrastructure has proven, impressive results with enterprises reporting 75% time savings in managing their infrastructure, 90% reduction in downtime, and 80% savings over traditional 3-tier infrastructure. The market reflects these results: the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems report, predicts “hyperconverged integrated systems will represent over 35 percent of total integrated system market revenue by 2019”.
But how does HCI provide value for money? Let’s dive deeper into some use cases:
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: Many organizations invested in VDI solutions years ago but turned away from them because of high upfront costs and the complexity of building out supporting infrastructure. A Hyperconverged platform eliminates these barriers, letting organizations start VDI initiatives with low upfront costs, consistent performance, and predictable scaling. For example, a health care entity seeking a secure desktop solution could use HCI to deliver a consistent desktop experience to doctors, nurses and administrators.
Server Virtualization: HCI reduces the operational complexity of traditional server virtualization environments. Technologists no longer need to develop separate approaches to compute, storage and networking. Instead, they can depend on HCI to provide consistent performance and predictable scaling in a unified environment. For example, a retailer who experiences bursts in seasonal activity might reallocate virtual server resources to meet changing demand, adding focused compute and storage capacity.
Testing and Development: Developers are under increasing pressure to rapidly deploy solutions to business challenges. This becomes difficult when they must work with computing, storage, networking, and virtualization teams to provision the hardware to support test and development applications. In an HCI environment, developers can provision their own resources on an agile basis and reconfigure virtualized hardware as they iterate through frequent code revisions. HCI also facilitates the testing and development environment through instant cloning and snapshot capabilities. How else could this be used? HCI could be deployed to provide developers with on-demand access to test environments.
Databases: Currently more and more database deployments are virtualized and hyperconverged storage solutions are gaining popularity in the enterprise space. The latest hyperconverged storage system to gain popularity, the All-Flash system, provides a high performing and cost-effective storage solution making use of the high speed SSDs locally attached to the Virtual Hosts or Servers.
Large, Remote Branch Offices: As organizations grow and open offices around the province, country, or even globe, a Hyperconverged Infrastructure provides a simple way to deploy hardware where it is needed but manage it from a central location. No more “fly-and-fix” missions to correct hardware issues in remote offices, issues can be resolved from the comfort of your own office. Colleges and universities, for example, might deploy HCI to meet the computing needs of branch campuses, supported by the technology team on the main campus.
Enabling Hybrid Cloud. Enterprises are embracing hybrid cloud for the flexibility and ability to serve new workloads while still maintaining security and data sovereignty compliance. However differences in policies, deployment templates, and backup and disaster recovery solutions and methods can result in increased complexity. A Hyperconverged environment simplifies hybrid cloud deployment and management.
These 6 use cases are only some of the real business and technical benefits of a Hyperconverged Infrastructure in this new age of demands on the data center.
Hyperconverged Infrastructure: Things to Consider
HCI is an emerging technology and every day we are observing breakthrough innovation in solutions offered by multiple original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). OEMs use component parts bought from other organizations to make devices. Before determining which HCI solution is best for your business, it is important to work through the key factors and features important for your unique environment. I’ve outlined some of the key features and common requirements to help you get started.
Performance: Look for consistency, VM Density, low latency, and scalability supported by HCI solutions. I recommend referring to Test and Validation reports written by independent institutions such as Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. (ESG). Carefully size when comparing solutions as some OEMs often need significantly more hardware for the same workload as they do not have effective compression and de-dupe features in their solutions. A common mistake is ignoring network performance- a high performance network offering low latency and high bandwidth is one of the critical factors for success in an HCI deployment. This is due to the large amounts of network traffic generated by an HCI system.
Resiliency: Enhanced resiliency ensures business application operational availability and continuity, even in event of node, disk, site, and software failures. Look for zero RPO and near-zero RTO high-availability for business-critical applications with support for stretch clusters. Also important is a full set of enterprise-class data management features such as snapshots, thin provisioning, replication for disaster recovery and backup, data encryption, integration with third-party backup tools, and instant and space-efficient cloning.
Flexibility: The last thing anyone wants is to add another silo or layer of complexity to their infrastructure. When assessing HCI platforms also assess its flexibility. Can you add compute only nodes, back up devices or even third-party SAN storage to HCI system? Can it scale compute independently from storage and mix and match compute-only nodes? These are critical for specialized applications such as databases, VDI, ML&AI. The ability to support multiple hypervisors and containerized applications is also critical for modern data centers. Finally, ensure compute nodes can be shared across HCI and CI applications, non-hyperconverged nodes can connect to storage, and that there is support for mounting external storage on an HCI node.
Management: The distributed data center can be a complex ecosystem to manage. Core workloads will no longer be static to your data center, cloud services will come from multiple sources, and the growth of edge computing driven by IoT and mobile workloads is driving management complexity beyond what is possible from current IT staffing levels. The result is that enterprises often end up with multiple management solutions for different data center infrastructure needs. This not only complicates management, monitoring, and troubleshooting capabilities but adds up to significant costs. Look for a solution which allows technologists to manage the full range of systems (Hyperconverged, converged or custom systems), including multisite systems, through a single, AI-driven, powerful tool. AI and cloud-based tools mean technologists can deploy the right infrastructure solution for each workload while managing them from anywhere. This ensures connected support, automation of core time consuming tasks, and consistency across data centers. The business benefits are twofold: less time spent managing infrastructure and reduced costs as applications are run in their ideal environment, on-premises or in the cloud.
Total cost of ownership: It is important to estimate total cost of ownership for any solution you intend to purchase. Two critical points of consideration are pricing and licencing. Be wary of opting for a cheap upfront solution, only to discover the high cost of additional features support and continued support for year two and year three. Look for solution completeness and effective pricing with support over three to five years.
Cisco Hyperflex System: A true Hyperconverged platform
Cisco HyperFlex™ Systems unlocks the true potential of hyperconvergence. The systems are based on an end-to-end software-defined infrastructure, combining software-defined computing in the form of Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) servers, software-defined storage with the powerful Cisco HX Data Platform, and software-defined networking with the Cisco UCS fabric. Together with a single point of connectivity and hardware management, these technologies deliver a pre-integrated and an adaptable cluster that is ready to provide a unified pool of resources to power applications as your business needs dictate.
 IDC Predictions Provide a Blueprint and Key Building Blocks for Becoming a Digital Native Enterprise. 31 Oct 2017 https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS43185317
 “Platform for the Multicloud” Slide 13. January 2019. https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/m/th_th/dc-innovation/assets/pdfs/2019/choosing-the-right-platform-for-mutlicloud.pdf