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