Francois Wolf, CMO, Pivot3
Today, organizations are struggling to maintain expensive and inflexible data center environments. Increasingly, they’re turning to hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) to simplify their IT operations. Hyper-converged solutions comprise a fast-growing market that is projected to generate more than $3.9 billion (USD) in total sales by 2019, transforming the way that IT approaches infrastructure.
"There doesn’t have to be a separation between storage and compute functions, where we don’t have to find a compromise between performance and simplicity"
From technology to organizational structures, from budgets to time-to-market, hyper-converged infrastructure is enabling the enterprise to rethink IT. But before you jump into a partnership with a hyper-convergence vendor, make sure you’re prepared to change your assumptions about how IT functions. Here are a few core questions you should ask before choosing an HCI provider.
1. Why should I even consider an HCI deployment?
Most importantly, enterprises should look closely at implementing a hyper-converged infrastructure because it consolidates separate data center functions into homogeneous appliances. It streamlines IT processes, eliminates traditional silos, and reduces the number of complex user interfaces needed to manage disparate systems. The result is decreased OPEX and CAPEX associated with running IT infrastructure.
The best HCI technology utilizes erasure coding to maximize useable storage space and ensure high levels of fault tolerance. It pools all resources across a cluster to form a virtual SAN that also has its own built-in computing power. Any application running on one appliance within the cluster has access to resources across all the appliances in the cluster. Storage bandwidth is aggregated across nodes resulting in very high IOPS to support performance hungry applications like desk¬top virtualization.
2. What can I expect in terms of ROI?
ROI from hyper-convergence is measured in terms of per¬formance speed, data protection, and storage capabilities. Superior HCI solutions support all-flash capabilities and are compatible with multiple hardware systems. Make sure your chosen provider has performed extensive throughput and IOPS testing and can tell you exactly how many machines each node supports.
Business continuity is essential. Enterprises today can’t afford a disruption in the availability of IT resources. Hyper-convergence protects against interruptions in operations stemming from human error, hardware failure, or external influences such as power surges or losses.
Superior HCI systems provide unparalleled levels of data protection. Hardware failure – inevitability poses little threat. Hyper-converged virtual storage and compute provides data backup and recovery for critical applications from the same rack, acting essentially as a full disaster recovery system as well as a high-performing infrastructure.
There shouldn’t be a tradeoff between fault tolerance and performance. With hyper-converged infrastructure solutions in place, total cost of ownership will decrease, causing an increase in ROI.
3. How will your solution meet our needs as our enterprise changes and scales?
It’s understandable that organizations are concerned with how to scale up or down as operational needs evolve. After all, data center scaling is a costly, complicated process. System downtime and in-depth planning – often with the use of expensive consultants – consume resources in terms of lost productivity and cost of external support.
HCI is a technology that is designed to scale linearly, which simplifies expansion of IT capabilities. Hyper-converged solutions are extremely flexible and agile. Rather than having to test separate components individually, organizations can just add more nodes to the existing environment.
4. My expertise is in business, not technology. How do I know I’m getting a solution that I can maintain with minimal external support?
HCI is specifically designed to simplify data center operations by integrating all machines and functions into one infrastructure rather than treating storage, compute, and networking as separately siloed capabilities. A model based on homogeneous appliances means self-configuring, self-healing, automatically load balanced infrastructure, which simplifies management and scaling.
Simply put, with HCI, organizations no longer need to maintain separate ‘islands’ of specialists to manage each aspect of the data center. Application owners and IT generalists can deploy and administer IT infrastructure, which means lower operational expenses and faster time-to-value for new business needs. When you make the transition to hyper-convergence, your need for external administrative support should actually decrease.
5. I heard that HCI implementation is an extensive, drawn-out, involved process. How should I prepare?
HCI is flexible, agile, and reduces overall costs associated with enterprise technology. Though it provides a new architectural paradigm for IT in which storage and compute functions are no longer treated as separately siloed functions, the right hyper-converged solution fully integrates with existing infrastructures. Because it integrates seamlessly into existing data center environments, organizations can convert IT operations to HCI in phases according to their own growth patterns and changing needs.
While traditional server virtualization can take weeks to deploy, HCI can be installed and powered up within hours. This ‘infrastructure in a box’ allows you to get your system up and running quickly – even with limited IT expertise.
Today, many providers of hyper-converged infrastructure offer converged storage and compute appliances that are purpose-built and ship from the factory pre-configured and ready-to-deploy out of the box.
We’ve spent the last few decades trying to stay ahead of enterprise IT trends, adapting our infrastructures to accommodate rapidly evolving technology. Fast-moving markets have put pressure on IT to provide more effective and more agile solutions and we’ve shifted our structure and strategy again and again as we adjust to each new advance.
We’re living in a world where there doesn’t have to be a separation between storage and compute functions, where we don’t have to find a compromise between performance and simplicity. By getting answers to these questions upfront, you can make the transition to hyper-converged infrastructure an easy one. Understand the new IT paradigm before you move forward with implementing an HCI solution. Rethink your approach to IT infrastructure.