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The role of HCI in the hyper-converged cloud

HCI and the cloud have virtualization at their cores, which makes the two platforms a good combination for organizations planning a hybrid cloud IT architecture.

Hyper-converged infrastructure has become a mainstream option for any workload that IT administrators might have...

typically hosted in a virtualized environment. HCI helps organizations adopt a hyper-converged cloud approach to data storage.

Because HCI is as set-it-and-forget-it as is possible, it can help companies make great strides toward their hybrid cloud ambitions.

In the early days of HCI, IT buyers tried to solve a complex problem: how to get sufficient storage performance for virtual desktops without breaking the bank. HCI remains a popular architecture for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments, but it's also useful for organizations with use cases beyond desktops, including implementing a hyper-converged cloud.

The hybrid cloud era

Not long ago, the cloud scared CIOs and IT staff, who feared it threatened their job security. This existential threat has been all but eliminated as people have realized that the cloud is just code for "someone else's computer" and that the underlying workloads are the secret sauce that makes an organization tick. Even infrastructure administrators realize the cloud hasn't meant a loss of jobs in their market.

Because HCI is as set-it-and-forget-it as is possible, it can help companies make great strides toward their hybrid cloud ambitions.

To be fair, there have been changes. IT departments have had to figure out how to integrate cloud services with their existing data center in a way that provides their users with a seamless computing experience. Networks have had to adapt to meet the unique needs of these kinds of hybrid cloud/data center integrations. Storage now spans the local data center environment, as well as the public cloud.

The cloud itself may not have disrupted IT all that much, but the lessons learned from the cloud have been important. In particular, the cloud has taught organizations that they need infrastructure that is easy to use and can scale at a rate that makes sense for the business.

Companies may want to adopt a public cloud for something such as disaster recovery so they don't need to build a secondary data center. For that to work, they need workloads that can easily shift between locations, a need that is met via virtualization and the hyper-converged cloud.

Because all workloads are virtualized in hyper-converged products, these architectural configurations can give companies an excuse to further increase their virtualization penetration.

But the hyper-converged cloud goes beyond that. Consider VDI again: Users still want mobile desktops that travel with them, but VDI can be tough for admins to deploy and support. Then, along came vendors such as Workspot, Parallells and Ericom, which offer cloud-based control panes that deploy virtual desktops to the cloud and on-premises infrastructure.

Next up, consider Nutanix and Hewlett Packard Enterprise SimpliVity. Both vendors sell HCI products that can offer data protection including the cloud as a backup target. An IT admin may have to pay additional licensing or usage costs but won't have to attempt to build the backup system in-house.

This hyper-converged cloud operating model is quickly becoming the new normal, and it's a model that should be around for years to come.

This was last published in January 2018

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