When is Hyper Converged Infrastructure right for my business?

Hyperconverged infrastructure represented by converging lines.

What is Hyperconverged Infrastructure?

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is the fundamental IT element in a software defined data centre (SDDC), removing the complications of traditional data centre infrastructure. HCI integrates all functions of the data centre natively, including compute, storage, and networking in a virtualised platform. This virtualised platform is then operated and monitored through a cohesive management console. Adding further value to this virtualisation, automation and orchestration tools allow you to extend the capabilities and benefits of both the SDDC and the public cloud, delivering a complete hybrid cloud infrastructure that addresses current and future application and infrastructure needs. But is hyperconverged infrastructure right for your business?

Based on the above it would come as no surprise that the HCI market is growing fast. By 2023, Gartner predicts that 70% of enterprises will be running some form of hyperconverged infrastructure, up from less than 30% back in 2019.

Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.

Key benefits of HCI in the SDDC include:

Removes the complexity of managing different hardware components and infrastructure silos found in traditional data centre environments.

Cost efficient
Minimises capital expenditure on hardware as well as cost and storage efficiency. Easily scalable to fit in with demand fluctuations.

• Agile
Tackle dynamic business needs proactively with wide range of deployment choices with no vendor lock-in, on-demand scalability, and support for traditional and modern applications.

So, is HCI right for you?

HCI has become increasingly popular for general purpose workloads. These are those functions that every organisation has to have; they can include infrastructure servers (DNS, DHCP, Active Directory, print servers, and so on), file servers, application servers, database servers, and anything else that the company needs to operate.

HCI aims to provide business with greater operational efficiency and reduced costs, in an increasingly data-driven business environment where more technology and computing power are demanded. So, for those that recognise the above demands being part of their business, the question will most probably be ‘when and how’ rather than ‘if’ to move to HCI.
To make that decision and transition easier, both traditional and HCI can co-exist and it is likely that some will make the decision to run specific applications on-premises whilst others transfer to the SDDC, with the decision to go for a full-stack option made at a later date.

To manage the businesses portfolio of applications across on-premises and cloud will require careful consideration, the following should be on your ‘key questions’ list:

• What are the requirements of the application?
• How will the application be managed and scaled?
• What is the business value of the application?
• What kind of environment does the application need to maximize its business impact?
• Can the application be migrated to a public cloud, and is the cost of rebuilding or refactoring the application for the cloud warranted?

Is there an alternative to HCI?

Moving away from traditional on-premise data centres, an alternative to HCI could be Converged Infrastructure (CI). CI, in contrast to HCI, is hardware based, converging storage and processes, whereas HCI is software based.

Converged Infrastructure comes as a pre-packaged bundle of systems, which includes: servers, storage, networking and management software. These systems are usually bought from one vendor, instead of buying the hardware and software components separately from different suppliers. CI systems are typically pre-configured and pre-tested, making them easier and faster to deploy.

The Pros and Cons of Converged Infrastructure

CI systems are, more often than not, bought from a single vendor and come with the following advantages:

• Improved compatibility: Minimising or even eliminating hardware and software compatibility issues.
• Cost effective: Converged infrastructure saves money on data centre provisioning, deployment and management.,
• Simplification: CI rationalises data centre management as it eliminates the need for IT to have expertise in products from multiple vendors.

The downsides to converged infrastructure include:

• Vendor reliance: Converged infrastructure can lock you into a single vendor, which could result in reduced features and functionality, and limited customisation options.
• Increased complexity: Adding further components to a converged architecture after installation can be complicated and expensive.
• Multiple tools: Currently many converged systems still require separate management tools for compute, networking and storage even if they come from the same manufacturer.

To converge or to hyperconverge?

Establishing a move away from traditional on-premise data centres is a given, but is converged or hyperconverged infrastructure right for your business? Which one is right will depend on a number of factors; the following should give you an idea by comparing converged with hyperconverged.

Put simply Converged Infrastructure is hardware-based and specialises in packaged hardware and software from a single vendor, Hyperconverged Infrastructure compresses compute and storage resources into highly virtualised, industry-standard x86 servers, with unified management.

Converged architecture; servers, storage, networking and management remain independent of each other, taking advantage of existing hardware. This flexibility will allow individual components to be used for specific and separate purposes, plus servers and storage can be scaled independently.

Hyperconverged infrastructure components are software-defined, offering more flexibility than converged infrastructure. Virtualised compute and storage resources also make HCI easier and faster to scale, compared to converged infrastructure. Hyperconverged infrastructure allows you to easily scale up by adding or replacing drives in existing servers, or scale-out by adding nodes to a cluster. This often means that even if you only need additional storage, the new node will also come with compute. Nodes can be added one at a time for incremental growth, whereas storage arrays often require a new controller or shelf of drives, which is a much larger single spend.

Hyperconverged infrastructure shown as converging arrows.

By using either converged or hyperconverged systems, you will be able to reduce the data centre footprint, simplify management and increase infrastructure efficiency. Companies often choose one versus the other, based on variables like the size and desired amount of control over the environment, cost, existing infrastructure and future IT goals and vision.

If, after reading this blog, you feel that converged or hyperconverged infrastructure might be right for your business, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right infrastructure decisions. Pendulum offers support and infrastructure expertise to help you get the most out of migrating your data centre.

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo

Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

Key Components of a Software-Defined Data Centre

Data centre image for SDDC

What does the software-defined data centre (SDDC) really look like? 

The future appears to be virtualised and software defined, or at least in data centre world. The move to cloud-based virtual machines replacing traditional hardware-based data centres, has allowed many organisations to be flexible and agile, giving them a much needed competitive edge.

Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.

What does software-defined mean?

Software-defined refers to the ability to control some or all of the functions of a system using software, rather than relying purely on physical hardware infrastructure. There are significant benefits for organisations that use SDDCs, including lower costs, higher quality products and services, and less risk.  In SDDCs, all elements of the infrastructure; networking, storage, CPU and security, are virtualised using virtual machines (VMs) and delivered as a service. SDDC is focussed on integrators and data centre builders, rather than toward tenants.

SDDC is a radical movement away from traditional data centres; organisational data, applications, networks, and infrastructure are centrally housed and accessed. Traditional data centres are the hub for IT operations and physical infrastructure equipment, including servers, storage devices, network equipment, and security devices. By contrast, a SDDC is an ‘IT as a service’ that provides an organisation’s software, infrastructure, or platform needs. SDDCs can be housed on-premises, at a managed service provider, and in private, public or hosted clouds.

SDDCs use a virtualised environment to deliver the functions of a traditional data centre. They can be managed from any location using web browser and API interfaces.  Like server virtualisation solutions, such as VMware’s Hypervisor, SDDCs abstract, pool, and virtualise all data centre services and resources.  This helps organisations reduce costs by minimising the need for large capital expenditure, increases scalability and improves overall business agility.

Remote management via APIs and web browser interfaces are some of the advantages of SDDCs, along with the automation of many tasks, which will ultimately reduce IT resource usage and provide automated deployment and management of core functions.

What are the benefits of a software-defined data centre?

The core features of SDDCs are broken down into 4 key areas, these are:

Removing network resource limitations. In a traditional hardware-defined data centre, the business is confined to running applications and services that conform to the limitations of the available network resources. The SDDC changes that and allows developers to tailor to business need, rather than developing based on what works on the available hardware that you may have.

Data centre management simplification. SDDCs also greatly simplify data centre management. By virtualising routers and switches to servers and storage, it makes it much easier to deliver, deploy, monitor, and maintain. The network and all its component resources become nothing more than software abstractions that can all be managed from a single interface.

Greater flexibility and reliability. Increased delivery of network resources is achieved along with automation because everything is software-defined. The software is capable of creating and mapping server, storage, and networking resources, which provides much greater agility, flexibility, and reliability.

Automatic scaling A properly implemented SDDC can detect and adapt to spikes in demand, scaling automatically, when necessary, to accommodate surges in traffic and optimize performance.

Key Features of SDDC

Components of an SDDC - virtualisation of compute, network, storage and management

Key Features of SDDCs include:

  • Compute virtualisation: operating systems, CPUs, memory, and software—reside on cloud servers as a virtual machine. This allows users to create software implementations of computers that can be turned on or turned off as needed, decreasing provisioning time.
  • Network virtualisation: removes the need to provide network infrastructure, which is supplied by virtual machines instead. Network infrastructure needs such as telecomms, firewalls, subnets, routing, admin, DNS, etc. are configured inside your cloud SDDC on the vendor’s abstracted hardware.
  • Storage virtualisation: storage is provided from the SDDC vendor’s storage pool. The client can choose storage types, based on their needs and costs. Storage to a virtual machine can be quickly added, when needed.
  • Management and automation software: reducing the need for IT workforce; SDDCs use management and automation software, keeping business critical functions working around the clock. APIs or web browser access delivers remote management and automation via a software platform accessible from any suitable location.

VMware’s software-defined data centre story

Mobile cloud is here to stay and virtualisation of many hardware based functions comes along with it. This presents its own challenges, despite its radical efficiency benefits.  In addressing these challenges, IT functions need to virtualise the entire data centre so that all infrastructure services become as inexpensive and easy to deliver and manage as virtual machines.

The software-defined data centre appears to be the ideal architecture for private, public, and hybrid clouds. Pioneered by VMware and recognised by the industry and analysts alike, SDDC extends the virtualisation concepts you may know— abstraction, pooling and automation — to all data centre resources and services.

VMware’s solution is built on a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) architecture of natively integrated compute, network and storage virtualisation technologies, with self-driving operations and management. 

According to IDC, VMware leads the HCI market, with just over 42% market share in 2020 and continues to grow two times faster than its closest competitor. With most of its customers in production worldwide, the richest ecosystem in the industry, and the broadest set of deployment options on the market, VMware provides an enterprise-proven, full HCI stack that puts businesses on the path to hybrid cloud.

Going forward

Creating a SDDC platform requires a great deal of commitment from the organisation. It should not be underestimated, the shift both in skill sets and culture, an organisation will have to make to achieve a full service SDDC. Cloud SDDC migration requires less traditional IT operations skills focused on maintaining the infrastructure, and instead needs skills focused on application delivery speed, product quality, and automation.

Cloud SDDCs reduce IT infrastructure and operations silos and increase the need for Development Operations (DevOps) skills, including container and microservices management needed to run production workloads at scale. Should you decide that SDDCs are for you, having a partner to help guide you through this migration, such as Pendulum IT, can help provide full project and lifecycle management, as you make that transition to a software designed data centre.

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo

Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com