Hyperconverged solutions are software-defined systems with tightly integrated storage, networking, and resources that have seen an increase in usage recently, especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hyperconverged infrastructure is a combination of traditional data center hardware and locally attached storage with software that enables the use of building blocks to replace legacy infrastructure systems. These legacy systems would typically consist of individual servers and different storage networks, but in a hyperconverged system, they are unified in a single platform.
Infrastructure with server-SAN and storage networks that featured independent modules which could be updated or changed without affecting other layers has been the typical way IT systems have operated for decades. However, in the era of hybrid cloud computing, this form of infrastructure can no longer keep up with the needs of many global businesses.
An HCI solution converges the entire data center stack, including storage, networking, and virtualization. Complex and expensive legacy infrastructure is replaced by a platform running on industry-standard servers that allows for businesses to start small and then scale as needed, one node at a time. More and more organizations are now starting to see the intrinsic benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure as it is a business that is expected to grow from $7.8 billion this year to over $27 billion by 2025, at a growth rate of 28.1%.
Currently, hyperconverged storage is the infrastructure of choice for companies that want to remain competitive during a critical period, see continued growth, and ensure that all data centers are sufficiently ready to transfer to cloud computing systems. With an HCI solution being the next logical step for the majority of businesses, it is important to understand exactly what are the positive and negative effects of transitioning to hyperconverged infrastructure.
Benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure
There are many clear benefits of having a highly integrated and tested system for your business, including:
Scalability: In a hyperconverged infrastructure, everything is seamlessly integrated, so scaling up involves simply adding another node to the previous one. This process offers the ability for more storage capabilities without the problem of any configuration hassles or hardware compatibility checks. It is essentially that simple; the more nodes you have, the more storage you can generate. This boost in storage not only offers seamless scalability, but it can be achieved without ever having to alter any management requirements.
Simplicity: The tried and true method of creating a data center requires bringing together a huge amount of separate pieces of hardware and software that can include servers, storage, networking, and management software for both hardware and software alike. A hyperconverged storage solution removes this problem. HCI solutions fully integrate hardware, software, and systems that are set to operate the moment they become functional. This simplicity ensures that all management issues are removed because everything has been created to specifically work together; therefore, it does.
Expense: Hyperconverged infrastructure will usually use commodity hardware, as opposed to special-purpose components, which is likely to significantly reduce the cost of implementation and operation. In addition, the nature of hyperconverged storage means that there is no need to bring in any additional IT staff to manage it due to its simplicity. Another key aspect of this is that the costs are entirely predictable as once you know the cost of adding an extra node and the additional capacity you will receive means simple cost calculations due to the pay-as-you-scale model.
Negatives of hyperconverged infrastructure
While these benefits are significant, it’s still important to be aware of potential pain points that might arise due to switching to an HCI solution. Some of these include:
Vendor Unity: When you use a hyperconverged infrastructure, you are then reliant on one lone vendor. This is why it is critical to ensure that any vendor you work with has a track record in your industry, is well-regarded, and can support your needs effectively. It is important to consult with experts before making your final decision regarding an HCI solution.
Hidden Costs: If you have not carefully considered the vendor you work with, costs can quickly begin to add up. Hidden costs can appear as some vendors may charge a higher amount for their equipment or services, while cloud costs can also increase if you are not careful. One way to prevent this from happening is to do due diligence when selecting a vendor, as well as undertake a full cost analysis of the process before agreeing to it.
A hyperconverged infrastructure should not be considered a panacea for all your IT and data problems. However, the positives of a hyperconverged solution typically far outweigh the negatives when it comes to streamlining your overall operational capabilities and productivity. With companies and organizations receiving more data on an almost daily basis and analytical workloads growing constantly, we are seeing hyperconverged infrastructure quickly become a part of the 'new business normal.'
Greg Jehs is the Director of Enterprise Engagement at Meridian.