Hyper-converged infrastructure options, vendors and installation tips
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Deciding whether to make the switch from a traditional data center to hyper-converged infrastructure isn't easy, and the responsibility often falls to someone in IT. He or she must make the case for why HCI products are a good fit for the organization.
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If you're one of those people tasked with making a business case for hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), you should have little trouble coming up with a list of the benefits that HCI products offer. Hyper-convergence promises to simplify infrastructure deployment and management, and to provide a flexible and scalable environment that can lead to a lower TCO than traditional data center technologies. Here's what to emphasize to get you higher-ups on board with HCI.
Hyper-converged infrastructure is made up of tightly integrated components that have been thoroughly tested to ensure that the hardware and software work as a cohesive unit. Deployments are quick and easy, and certainly less painful than putting the system together yourself.
With HCI products, you can spend less time configuring and optimizing components than you would with a traditional piecemeal system. HCI uses a hypervisor to combine all the components into a shared resource pool, which lets you manage the pieces as a single unit.
HCI vendors typically provide updates and patches they've certified to work with the existing components. In most cases, on-site administrators can easily and quickly update their systems with little disruption to the supported workloads. Hyper-convergence can streamline IT operations by providing centralized administration, eliminating storage silos and incorporating fault tolerance and disaster recovery directly into the system.
HCI products also have the benefit of being designed and supported by a single vendor, which helps avoid cross-component contention, vendor finger-pointing and the incompatibilities that can result from a do-it-yourself architecture. The downside to this is that you'll also be faced with vendor lock-in, which could spell trouble three to five years down the road.
Much of the flexibility you gain with hyper-convergence is as a result of HCI's cloud-like architecture, which provides a single shared resource pool that eliminates the need for isolated infrastructures to meet specific workloads. With HCI products, you can implement workloads of various types and sizes in a centralized environment, then deliver them through a software-managed infrastructure. This lets you easily deploy and maintain a wide range of applications and services.
HCI also supports solid-state and hard disk storage systems. They provide fault tolerance and disaster recovery, and they can support random and sequential workloads. This type of flexibility can be particularly effective if your company uses virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) because you don't need a SAN or the overhead that comes with it.
Hyper-convergence can be especially beneficial to organizations with remote locations or branch offices where space and IT resources are limited. And you can use HCI products to support small projects or to test new technologies without spinning up special environments.
HCI scales out to meet the needs of changing workloads, such as you find in a VDI environment. You can start with only the capacity you require and then add nodes as your needs change. This provides a simple, modular approach to scaling out that allows you to predict performance and costs as you project future requirements.
The many ways hyper-converged infrastructure can help you achieve a lower TCO:
- Reduces hardware needs
- Decreases time and skills necessary to deploy and manage infrastructure
- Diminishes bottlenecks and breakpoints
- Requires fewer network components
- Improves resource utilization; and
- Using commodity hardware.
Just remember that TCO applies to HCI's entire lifecycle, and it takes capital and operational costs into account. And a hyper-converged system does not come free; you pay vendors for the time and effort they've invested in their products. Plus, you must consider the time and resource costs associated with migrating to the new system.
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