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Some shops can't reap the benefits of hyper-converged infrastructure

Hyper-converged infrastructure systems aren’t a good fit for small businesses or demanding workloads. Businesses must consider their needs before jumping into a new server stack.

Hyper-converged infrastructure has been dangled in front of IT departments like a fishing lure, but not every shop should bite.

It can be tempting to get swept up in the benefits of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI): It's easy to buy, set up and run; shops can change its function through software tweaks; and it's scalable. But jumping into HCI without thinking is a potentially dangerous and costly mistake. And there are drawbacks to the technology, too.

For example, businesses considering a hyper-converged infrastructure deployment must determine what will happen to the older hardware that HCI will replace. It's important to establish whether ripping out the old to make way for the new is viable from a cost perspective. Companies that use hardware with several years left on its lifecycle might choose to wait before trying to reap the benefits of hyper-converged infrastructure.

Another key consideration is what workloads the new stack will run. Many hyper-converged infrastructure systems are built to support virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), but shops with zero virtualization experience should be careful not to get in over their heads. In addition, VDI deployments can fail for many reasons.

Hyper-converged infrastructure systems are also great for supporting tier-one applications, but any app with unbalanced needs isn't a good fit. Running a storage-heavy app wastes the remaining resources, which wastes money.

Company size is another indicator of whether a business can capitalize on the benefits of hyper-converged infrastructure. Hyper-convergence is a no-brainer in some big companies that must scale at a moment's notice. But smaller companies might not be able to find an HCI platform that comes in a small enough configuration. And some small companies might want to stand up VDI, but they may never support enough virtual machines to justify the cost of a shiny new HCI system.

Next Steps

Other articles in this handbook:

Which workloads should you run on hyper-converged platforms?
VDI, Tier-1 apps and ROBOs are solid choices to run on hyper-converged systems, but companies should find other resources to support some needy applications.

Hyper-converged architecture use cases expanding
Hyper-converged infrastructure is living up to its potential as organizations of varying sizes realize new ways the technology can be used to increase efficiency.

Hyper-converged platform configuration key to success in SMBs
Big companies that must support hundreds of VMs and scale quickly are prime HCI customers, but small companies can buy a smaller configuration and reap hyper-convergence benefits.

This was last published in February 2017

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