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How to build your own hyper-converged computing platform

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Hyper-converged system: Should you build it or buy it?

You can build your own hyper-converged infrastructure without purchasing an appliance from a vendor, and the DIY movement could have a ripple effect on the whole HCI market.

Here's a dirty secret about hyper-converged infrastructure: You don't need to buy an appliance to stand up your...

own hyper-converged system.

That said, just because you can build it yourself doesn’t mean you should.  One of the biggest selling points for hyper-converged systems is integration; a hyper-converged system consists of performance-matched hardware and a software layer that is certified by the vendor to work with the hardware. But you don't need an appliance or stack from a vendor to deliver hyper-converged infrastructure and converged infrastructure in your data center . Tightly integrated vendor products for hyper-convergence are still widely available, but a burgeoning do-it-yourself (DIY) movement is starting to take hold. 

Why a DIY hyper-converged system?

Hardware vendors typically offer a few different choices when it comes to purchasing an integrated hyper-converged system. But customers can't usually pick and choose individual components because they are performance-matched to one another.

 In the case of DIY hyper-convergence, it would still be in your best interest to use performance-matched hardware, but you can choose the hardware that makes the most sense for your own individual needs.

You might find you can build a hyper-converged system based on commodity hardware whereas hardware vendors often build their hyper-converged platforms around premium hardware.

 But DIY hyper-convergence might not saving you any money. If you're cobbling together a DIY hyper-converged system, you must still purchase software licenses, and you will probably also need hardware to run the software. Plus, the do-it-yourself model undermines the support that hyper-convergence is known for. One of the primary benefits to traditional hyper-convergence is that hardware and software are integrated by and purchased from a single vendor, so there's only one throat to choke and you know your configuration will be supported.

Will the DIY movement thrive?

Some of the important things to consider about DIY hyper-convergence is whether HCI vendors can hamper the movement, and whether it has legs without vendor support. HCI appliance vendors would undoubtedly prefer that customers purchase a hardware-based hyper-converged system rather than taking the DIY approach. But commodity hardware vendors should certainly be on board with DIY HCI; it encourages companies to buy new hardware. Once the physical infrastructure is in place, all you need is the software.

 And there's already standalone hyper-convergence software that you can use to define your hardware. The DIY hyper-convergence movement will succeed as long as software vendors offer a support policy that is acceptable to customers.

 Of course, this approach won't totally replace hardware-integrated platforms. There will always be customers who prefer an integrated infrastructure. Appliance vendors might come up with a value-added proposition intended to entice customers into choosing an integrated product over the DIY approach. So ultimately, the DIY HCI movement could lead to faster innovation, and it could drive up competition in the appliance market, both of which are positive outcomes for customers.

Next Steps

Should you use a converged or hyper-converged infrastructure?

E-handbook: How to decide if a hyper-converged platform is right for you

Hyper-converged definition continues to change

This was last published in May 2017

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