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DIY hyper-converged system benefits and drawbacks

Don't get caught up in the do-it-yourself hyper-converged platform trend without first taking a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the approach.

Not that long ago, one of the biggest selling points for hyper-converged systems was full vendor integration. A...

hyper-converged system consisted of performance-matched hardware and a software layer that was certified by the vendor to work with the hardware.

Today, the line between hyper-converged infrastructure and converged infrastructure is becoming blurred. Although tightly integrated vendor products for hyper-convergence are still widely available, a burgeoning do-it-yourself (DIY) movement is starting to take hold.

Advantages of DIY hyper-convergence

One of the biggest advantages to the DIY approach is that it is far more flexible than purchasing an integrated product. Hardware vendors typically offer a few different choices when it comes to purchasing an integrated hyper-converged system. However, customers usually do not have the ability to pick and choose individual components because the components are performance-matched to one another.

In the case of DIY hyper-convergence, it would still be in an organization's best interest to use performance-matched hardware, but it can choose the hardware that makes the most sense for its own individual needs. An organization might, for example, find that none of a vendor's integrated products are the right size for its needs. As such, an organization that adopts DIY hyper-convergence might assemble a platform that is more powerful than a vendor's low-grade offering, but not quite as extensive as that vendor's next-level offering.

Likewise, an organization might find it can build a hyper-converged system based around the use of commodity hardware. Conversely, hardware vendors often build their hyper-converged platforms around premium hardware.

Another potential advantage of do-it-yourself hyper-convergence is the ability to repurpose existing hardware. There is conceivably nothing stopping an organization from reusing hardware it already owns, so long as it adheres to the software vendor's hardware compatibility list.

Drawbacks of a DIY hyper-converged system

One possible disadvantage of DIY hyper-convergence is that it might not end up saving you any money. After all, an organization that is cobbling together a DIY hyper-converged system still has to purchase software licenses, and will probably also need hardware to run the software. Depending on the choices an organization makes, a DIY platform may end up costing just as much as an integrated one.

In addition, the do-it-yourself model undermines the support model for which hyper-convergence has long been known. One of the primary benefits to traditional hyper-convergence is that, because hardware and software are integrated by and purchased from a single vendor, there is only one point of contact for technical support. In a DIY environment, there will be one point of contact for hardware-related issues and another point of contact for software support.

There is also the potential for vendor finger-pointing when things go wrong. The organization must be careful to avoid combining hardware and software in a way that results in an unsupported configuration.

Will the DIY movement thrive?

Hardware vendors would undoubtedly prefer that customers purchase a hardware-based hyper-converged system rather than taking the DIY approach, as do-it-yourself hyper-convergence will most likely lead to reduced revenue.

In all likelihood, the DIY hyper-convergence movement will succeed so long as software vendors offer a support policy that is acceptable to customers. Hardware vendors will probably eventually go along with the DIY movement, as even DIY hyper-convergence requires hardware to run the software.

Hardware vendors would undoubtedly prefer that customers purchase a hardware-based hyper-converged system rather than taking the DIY approach.

While hardware vendors may eventually come to accept DIY hyper-convergence, this approach probably won't totally replace hardware-integrated platforms. There will always be customers who prefer an integrated infrastructure.

If hardware vendors eventually embrace DIY hyper-convergence, but also continue to offer integrated products, they will most likely try to come up with a value-added proposition intended to entice customers into choosing an integrated product over the DIY approach.

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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