A hyper-converged infrastructure can offer an organization several benefits, not only simpler deployments and management, but also better reliability, scalability, data protection and resource utilization, to name a few. That's not to say HCI is for everyone, but for the right workloads, HCI can prove a useful addition to the data center or edge environment, reducing costs and simplifying IT.
Here, we look at 11 of the most important hyper-converged infrastructure benefits.
1. Simplified deployments
One of the primary reasons that organizations turn to HCI is the ease of deployment, which starts with procuring the system and continues through standing up the virtual workloads:
- Decision-makers don't need to waste time researching products to ensure compatibility.
- IT works with a single vendor from procurement through workload deployment.
- Components are pre-integrated and preconfigured, avoiding the overhead that comes with acquiring, integrating and implementing traditional infrastructure.
- HCI's software-defined capabilities simplify resource allocation and workload deployments.
2. Simplified management
IT personnel can manage and monitor HCI systems much easier than traditional infrastructure:
- Software manages the environment and automatically carries out daily operations such as resource provisioning and load balancing.
- Administrators work from a single management platform that consolidates administrative tasks, eliminating the management silos that come with traditional infrastructure.
- Admins can perform common tasks such as backing up or restoring VMs with simple point-and-click operations, and they can manage the infrastructure remotely.
- HCI frees up IT personnel for other tasks, such as managing security or focusing on new initiatives, while reducing the need for specialized personnel.
3. Easy upgrades
An HCI platform provides a unified environment that makes upgrading software and hardware much faster and easier than traditional infrastructure:
- The single-vendor delivery model streamlines and simplifies upgrades, eliminating the need to balance independent systems.
- The software-defined infrastructure provides a flexible and adaptable environment for restructuring systems or adding hardware, without the complexities and risks that come with other systems.
- HCI offers a unified platform that uses common protocols and integrated technologies, making it easier to implement performance upgrades.
For many organizations, scalability is one of the top reasons they choose an HCI platform:
- An HCI cluster is made up of self-contained, preconfigured building blocks called nodes, which can be added to or removed from the cluster as needed.
- IT can start out small when first implementing an HCI appliance and then add nodes as needed, without investing in infrastructure that might not be used.
- Because nodes are preoptimized and preconfigured for the HCI platform, admins can add them without having to contend with integration issues.
- Admins can rapidly add nodes to existing HCI clusters, reducing the delays that come with scaling traditional infrastructure.
The multinode architecture inherent in an HCI platform offers a highly reliable and available system:
- An HCI cluster contains multiple nodes that distribute functions across the cluster to provide resiliency and high availability.
- Fault tolerance and disaster recovery are built into an HCI platform so if one node fails, the other nodes can take up the slack.
- The software-defined environment includes self-healing capabilities that automatically identify and address issues.
- Admins can add or replace nodes without incurring downtime or workload disruptions.
6. Improved performance
An HCI platform includes capabilities that can help improve workload performance, even when running multiple application types:
- An HCI system can include both SSDs and HDDs, helping to meet the performance demands of varying workloads, including virtual desktop infrastructure.
- Software-defined storage can accommodate changing performance requirements without needing to reconfigure the hardware itself.
- Storage and processing are within close proximity, resulting in less cabling and lower latency.
- An HCI system can accommodate varying workload types without the I/O blender effect that can degrade storage performance in a virtualized environment.
Despite its rigid node structure, an HCI platform offers a great deal of flexibility for accommodating diverse and changing workloads:
- Because an HCI platform is flexible and scalable, IT can quickly and easily meet changing business requirements or accommodate fluctuating workloads.
- The virtual environment makes it easier to handle diverse workloads, even if they run on different OSes.
- The virtual environment enables admins to move workloads between clusters or even across data centers.
- The software-defined infrastructure makes it possible to automate and orchestrate workload deployments and other operations.
8. Software-defined infrastructure
Software-defined capabilities make HCI stand out from other infrastructure platforms, helping to drive operations and maintain the environment's overall health:
- Most HCI systems now offer software-defined networking along with software-defined storage and compute, providing a 100% software-defined environment.
- Automation is easier to implement than with legacy systems, helping to simplify IT, better utilize resources, handle diverse and changing workloads, and improve overall efficiency.
- A software-defined infrastructure can more quickly and easily accommodate upgrades, new components and multiple storage types, while supporting disaster recovery.
- Third-party management and monitoring tools, as well as other applications and services, can more easily integrate with the HCI platform.
9. Cloud-friendly environment
HCI is built on a modern architecture that provides users with a cloud-like experience and helps facilitate digital transformation:
- An HCI platform abstracts the underlying hardware resources and presents them as consumable services, like a cloud platform, which streamlines and simplifies administrative operations.
- An HCI system uses advanced virtualization and software-defined technologies that make it easier to integrate with cloud platforms and support hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments.
- Because of HCI's cloud-like nature, admins can more easily implement and manage workloads that span multiple platforms, including cloud environments.
- Many HCI platforms now support containerized applications, along with those running them in VMs, adding to the platform's flexibility.
10. Data protection
An HCI platform offers data protection that includes built-in disaster recovery capabilities, as well as features for managing security:
- Data protections such as backups, snapshots, clones or other disaster recovery features are built into an HCI platform.
- HCI's multinode architecture and built-in fault tolerance make it easy to restore data in the event of a cyberattack, equipment failure or some other occurrence.
- Because HCI consolidates resources into a single system, data is stored closer to where it is processed, making it easier to manage and monitor, while reducing the overall attack surface.
11. Lower costs
Many organizations turn to HCI because of its promise to lower the costs of running workloads throughout their lifecycles:
- An HCI platform consolidates hardware resources and maximizes their use, resulting in fewer servers, smaller data center footprint, and lower power and cooling requirements.
- An HCI platform can be built with commodity hardware, avoiding the high costs that come with deploying specialized server, storage or network components.
- Because HCI uses direct-attached storage, an organization can avoid the high costs that come with deploying and managing a SAN.
- Organizations can purchase HCI software and build their own HCI platforms, using a reference architecture to help with the process.
Because an HCI platform is easier to deploy and manage, fewer IT resources and less expertise are needed to get started and keep going.