If you’re contemplating an upgrade of your data center, you’d be wise to take a closer look at hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). Today, it’s well-accepted in modern data center circles as a robust and future-proof approach.
So, what is HCI, and why all the interest in it?
A hyper-converged infrastructure is a software-driven architecture where essential modern data center resources – compute, storage, and virtualization – co-exist in a single system.
HCI offers a host of benefits to modern businesses, whose data centers traditionally comprised a heterogeneous mix of hardware and software components from various vendors. In this model, getting everything to interoperate seamlessly is a challenging and time-consuming endeavor.
But now, HCI offers a better way. Its many benefits include greater scalability, cost efficiencies, and a far lower management and administrative burden. In addition, with HCI, it’s possible to run diverse workloads – each with its own set of capacity and performance requirements – concurrently yet securely. All this means that traditionally siloed network, storage, and virtualization teams can work more cooperatively, with everyone pulling in the same direction.
Let’s take a moment to explore each of these benefits in more detail:
1. Freedom to Scale
It’s not unusual for modern businesses to experience periods of rapid growth, expansion, and diversification. Equally, there will be times when a company contracts or even divests some of its operations or assets.
HCI is inherently designed to flex and scale as your business does. It’s possible to “start small” with your initial HCI deployment and grow from there at your own pace.
That’s because every HCI deployment or “cluster” comprises discrete building blocks known as nodes. It’s fast and straightforward to add or remove nodes as your requirements change.
2. Cost Efficiencies
For many years, the cost of maintaining data center infrastructure consumed a disproportionate amount of many IT budgets. The advent of cloud computing with its “only pay for what you need when you need it” model, was met with relief and enthusiasm in IT circles. HCI is a perfect complement to an organization’s cloud-first strategy. It’s built on a modern architecture and operates on a platform that abstracts the underlying hardware resources, presenting them as consumable services. So, essentially it offers both admins and users a cloud-like experience.
An HCI platform also allows IT leaders to invest in fewer third-party hardware resources (such as servers, SAN switches, and storage arrays) and maximize their use. With HCI, you can say goodbye to costly forklift upgrades, and there’s no need for long-term capacity planning exercises.
A smaller data center footprint means lower power and cooling requirements – and costs. And because HCI platforms are straightforward to deploy and manage, you’ll need to spend less on scarce IT skills.
3. Less Sprawl
As we outlined above, HCI allows you to create a truly consolidated environment across compute, storage, and virtualization resources. This means you have a single, smaller data center unit to manage. Critical IT tasks such as backup or WAN optimization can be performed once, all within the same platform.
This consolidated, software-driven environment also better lends itself to automation and easily accommodates upgrades and multiple types of storage. The process of introducing and integrating new applications, services, and monitoring and management tools from various vendors is also simplified and streamlined with HCI.
And let’s not forget security and cyber threats. Because HCI consolidates multiple resources into a single system, all data is stored closer to the location at which it’s processed. This reduces the overall potential attack surface.
4. New Levels of Flexibility for Better Performance
The flexibility that HCI offers comes in many forms and functionalities and ultimately contributes to better overall system and workload performance.
You can support diverse and fluctuating workloads (even if they run on different operating systems) and scale up capacity quickly.
One of the most performance-enhancing features of HCI platforms is the self-healing capabilities that allow them to automatically and immediately identify and address issues – all a result of the dynamic, software-defined nature of the environment. And finally, HCIs also mean faster backups and reduced backup windows.
5. Better Internal Team Cooperation
With just one – rather than three – IT environments to oversee, your networking, storage, and virtualization teams spend less time managing, maintaining, and securing your estate.
And even better, the consolidated nature of your HCI data center operations means that everyone is working from a single management platform, so everyone “sees” everything in one place at the same time.
This reduces the possibility of miscommunication between teams and functions, duplication of effort, and possible conflict.
A Closer Look at Workload Compatibility
If your organization relies heavily on some or all of the following five workloads, you’re a prime candidate for HCI:
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is one of the most common infrastructure workloads run on HCI. Each of the nodes of an HCI cluster can support a certain number of virtual desktops, so it’s simple for your IT team to determine how many nodes they need to host the desired number of virtual desktops.
Tier 1 Workloads and Applications
The advanced levels of availability and performance offered by HCI makes it ideal for running business-critical applications and workloads (such as SAP, for example.)
Businesses with Remote Workers and Branch Offices (ROBOs)
With HCI, you can keep your data consolidated and centralized in a primary location but still accessible to your employees if they’re working in your branch offices or at home. What’s more, it’s easy for the IT team to monitor and manage everything remotely, irrespective of where people are doing their work.
Application Development and Testing
Ideally, the application development and testing activities that your developers carry out should be conducted in an environment that’s separated from your production environment. And, as we mentioned earlier, it’s quick and easy to identify the number of nodes these development teams need and to provision them.
Data Backup, Restore, and Disaster Recovery
With HCI, your IT team has a centralized platform to deploy, manage, and optimize the latest data backup, restore, and disaster recovery systems. This means they can protect your entire geographically dispersed organization – regardless of where employees are working and which devices and applications they’re using.
Clearly, HCI offers compelling benefits to organizations looking to turn their data center into an agile and responsive asset rather than an admin-intensive cost center.
If you’d like to learn more about HCI and how Agisko can help you move forward on this path, please get in touch.