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Why should I choose a converged vs. hyper-converged system?

Converged and hyper-converged systems both include storage, networking and compute in one package, but converged systems can offer users some additional advantages.

The reason to choose a converged vs. hyper-converged system boils down to a single word: flexibility. Converged and hyper-converged systems are designed to make server virtualization easier to implement by taking the guesswork out of hardware selection. The idea is that a converged or hyper-converged system provides a set of matched hardware components that includes storage, networking and compute.

Converged systems use a hardware-based approach to virtualization. In other words, the compute, networking and storage components are all hardware-based and act as building blocks of the converged system. In contrast, hyper-converged systems use a software-defined infrastructure on top of physical components. This is an important distinction because it means converged systems are much more flexible.

Although components in a converged system are designed to work together to accomplish a common goal, there is no rule that requires the hardware to be used that way. If you want to use a compute module for a different purpose, you can do so. In a hyper-converged infrastructure, however, the software makes the rules and you cannot use components in an individual manner.

Another advantage to using a converged vs. hyper-converged infrastructure is that in some cases you may not have to purchase a large unit consisting of matched components. It may be possible to use a reference architecture approach, which allows an organization to use existing or new hardware to build the equivalent of a pre-built converged system. EMC, for example, offers a reference architecture with EVO: RAIL .

Regardless of whether it uses a building block or reference architecture approach, converged systems are usually less expensive than comparably equipped hyper-converged systems because of the cost associated with the required software. Some vendors argue that while startup costs are usually higher, hyper-converged systems are less expensive in the long run due to lower maintenance costs.

Next Steps

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This was last published in July 2015

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Does a converged or hyper-converged system work better for your storage environment?
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Nutanix employee here. Interesting perspective. I'd like to hear more about how a hardware-based approach to virtualization is "much more flexible" that a software-based approach.

@ROIdude
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