IT Focus Area: Infrastructure Optimization
November 28, 2016
How to Unlock the Power of Hyperconvergence: The Risks and Rewards
Fifteen years ago, no one imagined that phones would replace cameras. Today, smartphones take higher quality photos than most cameras.
The same initial disbelief is happening in the hyperconvergence market. In 2001, most people would have never believed that enterprise storage would be shifting back into servers with internal flash drives that are faster, cheaper and easier to automate than array-based storage.
Just as you no longer need to carry a separate camera if you have a smartphone, you no longer need to pay for and maintain external storage for your virtualized environment.
Companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Yahoo! have used a similar model (commodity x86 servers with local storage) for more than five years. Their architectures were designed in house from scratch and were beyond the reach of most enterprises. Once these monster companies started bragging about their sophisticated, yet low-cost, architecture, other enterprises wanted to be like them. With the advent of hyperconverged platforms, these benefits are now available to everyone, and enterprise IT is jumping on the bandwagon.
According to the 2016 State of Hyperconverged Infrastructure Market Survey, 37 percent of respondents have adopted hyperconverged infrastructure. Of those enterprises that have not yet adopted hyperconvergence, 36 percent plan to do so within the next two years.
What Is Hyperconvergence?
Traditional external storage is complex and expensive—whether you are migrating to new technology or scaling what you already have. It can take months to deploy and many people to manage.
This cumbersome model simply doesn’t work in today’s virtualized environments. Enterprises need more agile storage, so they can quickly scale their services as the market dictates.
Hyperconvergence solves these challenges. It consolidates a commodity infrastructure with server virtualization, along with storage virtualization and automation, into one preconfigured, easy-to-implement appliance.
You can now buy 200TB of Flash, 4TB RAM, and 144 cores of CPU in a single 2u chassis - pre-integrated and fully automated. Hyperconvergence comes with all of the same data features that you get in an external storage array—such as data compression, replication, protection, and deduplication.
Some benefits of hyperconvergence include:
- Management that is designed for virtualization (not components)
- Simplified standards
- Simplified networks
- Streamlined and consolidated administration
- Resiliency - absorbs failures
- The elimination of controller-based storage arrays and their associated costs
- Lower total cost of ownership
- Faster time to market—you can get it up and running in hours, not weeks
The 3 Biggest Barriers to Agile IT
Although hyperconvergence offers a number of benefits, many enterprises are cautious of adopting the technology. Here are three barriers that can hold you back from a more agile IT environment:
1. Business as usual
Most corporate IT cultures were built over decades. They depended upon specialized skills that were organized into silos with names such as server, storage, and network. Hyperconverged solutions combine these functions and are potentially disruptive, changing how IT is structured and how it runs. As a result, deciding to deploy hyperconvergence often requires many groups to weigh in, which can slow your transformation.
2. New operational models
Hyperconverged infrastructure is a gateway to a private cloud. Since smaller organizations have fewer teams to coordinate, they have adopted hyperconvergence and private clouds quickly. Larger enterprises are much less nimble and are unable to easily transition staff members with siloed expertise into stack managers. This makes it harder for enterprises to quickly obtain the benefits of private cloud.
3. Outdated procurement processes
Many procurement cycles are based on projects with three- to five-year lifespans. Hyperconverged solutions work best when procured in three- to six-month capacity increments, taking advantage of Moore’s Law. Hyperconvergence makes it easy to add capacity on demand in a public cloud-like model.
Enterprises need to overcome these barriers to stay competitive in a global marketplace. Today’s business environment requires faster time to value for applications and projects. When IT doesn’t respond quickly enough, shadow IT pops up, exposing companies to new security and availability risks. Hyperconverged technology can help you overcome long deployment cycles, reduce administrative overhead, and increase agility.
4 Things to Look for in a Hyperconverged Solution
According to Cisco, the hyperconvergence market is expected to hit $15 billion by 2020 and grow to $38 billion within 12 years.
Within the past year, most major IT providers have jumped into the hyperconvergence ring. More than 30 vendors are currently competing in this space, and they all have a common goal of eliminating the need for storage area networks (SAN) and controller-based arrays while trying to capture the server compute part of the business.
However, not all hyperconverged solutions are created equal. Hyperconvergence providers have vastly different technologies, roadmaps and corporate philosophies. These variations can make it challenging to find the right solution for your enterprise.
Here are four things to look for in a hyperconverged solution:
All manufacturers can scale to 10-100 virtual machines. But what happens if you need 1,000 or 10,000 virtual machines? Compare the number of nodes you need with the maximum nodes that an HCI manufacturer supports in a cluster. Also pay attention to the available options for memory, storage, and CPU in each node. Can you intermix different sized nodes, or must all of your nodes be identical?
2. Data locality
This feature is critical, as it can future-proof your environment. It allows the working set of your virtual machine’s data to remain local to your CPU and memory. With data locality, hot blocks never need to traverse the network, which causes latency. Each HCI OEM has a unique way to ensure data locality and keeping data off the network.
3. Enterprise-class storage features
Look for a hyperconverged solution that offers data services such as:
- Erasure coding
- Stretch clusters
4. Ease of use
Your hyperconverged solution should provide a single user interface and a centralized admin without hidden element managers. It should be simple to install, automated, easy to upgrade, and a snap to maintain. Some even allow for public cloud integration, so you can simplify your management and streamline your IT.
How to Pick the Best Solution When the Market Is Changing Rapidly
The hyperconvergence market is moving quickly. Over the next few years, manufacturers will race to become enterprises’ HCI platform of choice. Many of the smaller players will disappear or get acquired.
As the market evolves, you need guidance to learn what is out there and how to pick the best option for your enterprise. Look for a partner who can help you understand the market and manufacturers, as well as separate fact from fiction.