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Hyper-converged infrastructure benefits and how to reap them

It was a big year for hyper-convergence. Here are the top five expert tips our readers checked out to get the most out of a hyper-converged infrastructure.

As hyper-convergence takes up more space in the storage market, the question no longer seems to be about what the benefits are. Instead, people want to know how to take advantage of the many hyper-converged infrastructure benefits. The generalities are gone, hyper-convergence is here and it's clear that IT pros are getting into the specifics: Is it better to get a complete system from a vendor or build your own? What should you do to prepare, and once it's in place, what should you watch out for?

When it comes to hyper-convergence, these were the primary concerns highlighted in 2017. Below, we've assembled a recap of our most-read tips on HCIs from the past year.

How to prepare for an HCI installation

In order to take advantage of the numerous hyper-converged infrastructure benefits, you need to prepare your environment for the installation. This popular piece of expert advice covers a range of changes you may need to make to be ready for hyper-convergence, from physical infrastructure changes to changes in staff responsibilities. While there is some overlap between hyper-converged installation and switching over to virtualization platforms, hyper-convergence technology also has its own unique needs to be addressed.

DIY hyper-convergence is an option

While one of the major hyper-converged infrastructure benefits is the ability to purchase a single integrated system, many IT pros seem to be looking into building their own hyper-converged platform. If you already have perfectly good hardware you'd like to use or have your own custom preferences for hardware, you might not want to buy the combined hardware and software products out there. Luckily, there are a number of vendors on the market with software-only hyper-convergence options, such as VMware's vSAN and Maxta MxSP.

The best workloads for HCI

While a wide variety of organizations are hopping on the hyper-convergence bandwagon, there are some workloads more suited (or ill-suited) to the technology. To take advantage of hyper-converged infrastructure benefits, such as reduced storage costs and better performance, a virtual desktop infrastructure workload is a good bet. Hyper-convergence can also create a self-contained environment, ideal for testing and development. When should you avoid hyper-convergence? If you're running hypervisors from multiple vendors or your workload will place high demand on one of the resources (storage, compute, network), an HCI may not be right for you.

Hyper-convergence vs. other options

Hyper-convergence is far from the only option out there for virtualized workloads, and there are some alternatives you may want to consider instead. This tip compares the benefits of hyper-convergence to those of converged infrastructure and the public cloud. Preferences will vary by organization, but each system has its own advantages and drawbacks. While hyper-convergence is good for one-stop shopping, a converged infrastructure usually makes for cheaper scalability and greater flexibility. With the public cloud, you can avoid hardware expenses, but costs can be unpredictable in the long term.

Watch out for vendor lock-in

While there are plenty of advantages to a hyper-converged installation, it's good to be cautious. No technology is without its flaws, and one potential drawback of hyper-convergence is the possibility of vendor lock-in. It is not necessary to go all-in with just one vendor for hyper-convergence, but you'll have to ensure that the vendor you choose for hyper-convergence will support existing or additional infrastructure. This tip takes a deep dive into the risk of vendor lock-in and what to watch out for.

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What do you hope to see in the coming year from hyper-converged infrastructures?