One of the fastest-growing solutions for evolving to the next-generation data center is Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI). In an HCI solution, all the typical hardware-based data center resource pillars – storage, compute, and networking – are virtualized and collapsed onto an industry-standard x86 server. Since the resources are software-based, and managed from a single management console, a well-architected HCI solution can dramatically increase efficiency, improve flexibility, and reduce TCO across the data center — without any trade-offs on performance or availability.
Approaches for Building Data Center
All data centers have the same fundamental architecture – compute, storage, and networking. The way how you choose a building block to establish your data center to manage day-to-day activities will affect your data workflow, operating costs, short-term and long-term costs, capital costs, ability to scale, and more.
There are three main approaches used to build a data center infrastructure, i. Traditional Silo-based, ii. Converged, iii. Hyper-converged Infrastructure.
i. Traditional Infrastructure
This model, which still exists in “modern” storage models, relies on proprietary, purpose-built hardware. It typically has its own management software and works best when optimized and managed by dedicated specialists. Furthermore, because performance is set at the hardware layer, resources are not properly optimized and overprovisioning often occurs. It’s an expensive solution to a general-purpose IT need, and results in an increased footprint, increased complexity, and increased staffing and specialization.
ii. Converged Infrastructure
A converged infrastructure improves on the traditional model by bringing storage, networking, and compute into a single rack. These elements are typically provided by different specialty vendors. While the management may be integrated and optimized, separate systems, workflows, and management platforms still exist. In addition, the hardware bundles are pre-configured to run specific workloads and can’t be easily altered – resulting in a loss of flexibility. The physical boundaries may have been eliminated, but provisioning and operational challenges remain.
iii. Hyper-Converged Infrastructure
Hyper-converged solutions take the next step – the resource pillars are physically converged onto a single industry-standard x86 server, forming a seamless, software-defined environment well- suited to today’s IT challenges. The secret lies in the hypervisor – it’s the source of the “hyper” in hyper-convergence. All the key data center functions – compute, networking, and storage – are now running as software on the hypervisor, enabling efficient operations, streamlined and speedy provisioning, and cost-effective growth.
Benefits of HCI
The Hyper-Converged Infrastructure model delivers a variety of benefits:
i. Cost Efficient
By taking advantage of industry-standard components (servers and storage) instead of proprietary hardware, HCI solutions deliver a high-performance result at a fraction of the cost. And because you’re simultaneously reducing your hardware footprint, you’ll save on space, too.
ii. Simplicity in Operations
HCI enables highly efficient operations, leveraging the hypervisor to automatically align and allocate resources where they are needed most. And since all operations are managed from a single interface with policy-driven control and automation, the need for specialized staff to perform routine provisioning and maintenance tasks is eliminated.
iii. Scalability and Affordability
Depending on the deployment model selected, HCI solutions expand in a much more granular fashion than traditional hardware purchases. In many instances, increasing storage capacity is as simple as adding more flash to existing servers. When both compute and storage capacity is called for, simply add new HCI nodes or appliances. You no longer need to plan for budget-breaking capital expenditures (CAPEX); with HCI, you can “grow as you go.”
HCI also delivers high availability by replicating data between nodes and enabling failover to eliminate downtime. Within your HCI solution, the storage software being controlled by the hypervisor eliminates overprovisioning such as VSAN in VMware environments, so that idle resources no longer lie in wait for occasional peak demand. Furthermore, the storage software reduces storage capacity though data efficiency features like deduplication and compression.
Determining the Right Environment for HCI
As you work to identify the right solution, a great first step is to make a list of what matters most. What is most important to your business today – and tomorrow? Perhaps it’s cost containment or scalability, flexible growth or ease of management. Identify the areas that are your highest priority, and look at the solutions that meet those needs.
Here are some factors to include:
- Is adding new appliances whenever you require more storage or compute resources a deal-breaker – or not?
- Are hardware compatibility and compliance with existing standards important to you?
- Are cost and scalability big considerations?
- How will it impact your staff? The last thing a stretched IT staff wants is a brand-new system to learn, troubleshoot, and integrate.
HCI leverages the hypervisor to deliver compute, networking, and storage from a single x86 server platform. By choosing HCI, you extend the benefits of virtualization to storage and networking, gaining the ability to manage storage and compute from one central place, which streamlines data center operations and reduces complexity. Different work streams converge into one, allowing you to focus on what matters most for your business. And you do it all on industry-standard x86 servers and storage components.
Source: VMware White paper