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Hyper-converged infrastructure options, vendors and installation tips

Companies that are ready to retire old hardware have many converged and hyper-converged infrastructure options to choose from, but they should carefully determine whether HCI can meet their needs.


Hyper-converged infrastructure, although still an evolving technology, has received increased attention as a technology that can simplify the architecture of virtual environments.

Products that fall under the hyper-converged umbrella integrate compute, storage and virtualization resources that are preconfigured to work together. These products often include additional storage features such as deduplication or compression, as well as management functionality.

An early player on the hyper-converged scene was Nutanix, which continues to upgrade its platform to compete with Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise-owned SimpliVity and other vendors. Almost all early hyper-converged products were built around VMware hypervisors, but Nutanix and others have added support for additional hypervisors, which could lead to broader adoption.

There's a lot to evaluate when choosing to go the way of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). For example, implementation details of HCI products can involve vendor lock-in. When a technology advances, IT must often wait on HCI vendors to catch up. And while hyper-converged systems offer similar features as software-defined storage, the two are actually quite different.

Not only is it important for IT staff to learn the ins and outs of hyper-converged infrastructure, but they must also be able to explain to management why the technology is worthwhile for an organization, especially with it still being relatively new. There's simplicity: HCI products require less time configuring components than with a traditional system. There's agility: HCI supports various storage systems, works in remote and branch offices, and can scale out. And there's lower cost: for example, it requires less hardware and fewer network components, and staff don't need to commit the same amount of time to data center tasks.

TechTarget already has a wealth of information to help organizations get in front of this emerging trend. This guide explains what's driving the "hype" in hyper-convergence, how the technology can benefit a virtual environment and what hyper-converged infrastructure options are available today.


Define it

Before diving into hyper-converged infrastructure, start with some background on what key HCI-related terms mean.


Hyper-convergence grows from virtualization

Some analysts argue that hyper-convergence is a product of converged infrastructure (CI). Offerings became hyper-converged once vendors began designing them with virtualization in mind, adding management layers and storage features. As these products are upgraded and new ones enter the playing field, it can be hard to differentiate hyper-converged infrastructure from other evolving storage technologies. Convergence also plays a role in the evolution of IT jobs, which has gone in a direction that IT administrators in siloed data centers may be uncomfortable with.


Converged vs. hyper-converged: What's the diff?

Both converged and hyper-converged infrastructure fall under the data-center-in-a-box distinction, but HCI allows admins to use software to define the purposes of the hardware. And many HCI products are designed to support server and desktop virtualization upon installation. Continue Reading


Why software-defined does not equal HCI

Software-defined storage (SDS) and hyper-converged infrastructure options both use software to determine the function of some kind of hardware. But SDS is always storage, whereas HCI applies to storage, compute and virtualization. Continue Reading


Causes of rapid CI, HCI market expansion

Several factors influence the pace of the converged and hyper-converged infrastructure market's growth. For starters, there's a sense of DIY fatigue among administrators, which is juxtaposed with the simplicity of deploying CI and HCI. A crowded market also makes for fast and frequent vendor advancement as they try to stay competitive. Continue Reading


Convergence isn't without cons

The simplicity of deploying and managing CI and HCI is undoubtedly a selling point for many IT shops, but companies must consider that getting locked in with one vendor can limit opportunities for innovation. If an HCI vendor doesn't support a technical advancement in a timely manner, customers are the ones who miss out. Continue Reading


Hyper-converged infrastructure adoption demands new skill set

Less hardware to manage sometimes means companies need fewer IT staffers. As the shift to hyper-convergence breaks down data center siloes, being the best storage or virtualization administrator is no longer enough to engender job security. Admins must become well-versed in all the technologies associated with HCI. Continue Reading


Parlay your skills

To get a job managing converged and hyper-converged infrastructure, IT admins must have the right skills. But they also have to prove that they can work with customers and explain complex technology without being confusing or condescending. Continue Reading


Considerations for hyper-converged storage environments

The first reason a hyper-converged infrastructure might appeal to storage professionals is the convenience; there's very little configuration that needs to be completed, and commodity hardware often puts it at a lower price point. But convergence isn't right for everyone, and companies should know what they need before they dive in.


How to get a manager to go for HCI

IT administrators interested in deploying HCI might first have to convince managers or a CIO to get on the same page. Playing up hyper-convergence's simplicity, agility and lower TCO can get the people holding the purse strings on board. Continue Reading


Prep the data center for HCI rollout

It's not a good idea to go into an HCI installation without some prior planning. Admins will need to migrate virtual machines (VMs) and figure out what will happen to old hardware before a shiny, new hyper-converged system can go in. Continue Reading


Make HCI work for the little guy

Most vendors market their hyper-converged infrastructure options to enterprise-class companies, but there are smaller stacks and configurations that can work in SMBs. Finding those architectures might be a challenge, but small companies that want to reap convergence benefits aren't completely out of luck. Continue Reading


What to run on HCI

Applications with balanced and predictable storage, networking and compute needs are all solid choices to live on hyper-converged servers. Workloads such as virtual desktop infrastructure are a prime example, but companies can also choose to run tier-one apps or support branch offices with HCI. Continue Reading

4Market spotlight-

Available hyper-converged infrastructure options

It started with just a few hyper-converged products, but an increasing number of vendors offer technology that falls into this category.


Post Nutanix IPO, small fries persist

After Nutanix became a public company, the HCI market as a whole looked a little different. Small players and startups seem dwarfed by the market share and power of major storage vendors, but they aren't fading away quietly. In addition to Nutanix, VMware, Dell EMC and other big guys, companies looking at hyper-converged infrastructure can consider Pivot3, Maxta, Scale Computing and Stratoscale. Continue Reading


SimpliVity becomes part of the HPE fold

As many experts predicted, Hewlett Packard Enterprise scooped up SimpliVity for a cool $650 million. HPE sells SimpliVity's OmniCube and OmniStack products, and can now take advantage of the company's strong reputation around data dedupe and compression. Continue Reading

Blog Post

HyperGrid product family offers modular HCI

HyperGrid, formerly GridStore, offers 3U hyper-converged appliances as well as container orchestration and HyperWeave, which integrates servers, storage and switches. Customers can deploy the company's HyperCloud appliance on premises, or utilize a network of HyperGrid partners to take advantage of the product in the cloud. Continue Reading


Maxta partners up for customizable HCI

Through various OEM relationships, Maxta offers many hardware options to complement its MxSP software. MxSP works on any storage and can offer customers single-pane-of-glass management for VM and data management, storage and services. Continue Reading


Nutanix Acropolis aims to be top of the heap

The Acropolis platform includes fault handling to ensure the system stays up and running in the event of a failure. Customers can choose from Nutanix's three hyper-converged infrastructure options: Starter, Pro and Ultimate. Each one offers a different configuration. Continue Reading


Pivot3 vSTAC OS gives other vendors a run for their money

Pivot3's HCI option offers high availability and performance with better fault tolerance than other replication-based HCI software on the market. Continue Reading


No staff? No problem, with Scale Computing's HC3

Scale Computing HC3 hyper-converged appliances are designed for companies that don't have the staff to administer HCI on a full-time basis. The platform is designed to install in under an hour and boasts seamless integration. Continue Reading


VMware offers abundant HCI options

VMware's hyper-converged infrastructure options include an appliance and software bundles consisting of VCE VxRail, VSAN Ready Nodes and VMware Cloud Foundation. Continue Reading

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