IT professionals spend much of their day on daily tasks, like of monitoring, troubleshooting, and managing systems (like cloud environments). Because businesses are refocusing their IT staff on revenue generation, they are looking for ways to efficiently manage those day to day tasks. Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) for cloud environments is a way to achieve that goal. In this part of our cloud architecture series, we talk about how hyperconverged infrastructure works with a private cloud architecture and the benefits. We spoke with TierPoint’s James Bruce, Senior Manager of Architecture, and Steve Foster, Cloud Architect, to learn more.
What is hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI)?
HCI is a software defined “platform-in-a-box” with networking, computing, and storage services tightly integrated and installed on a commodity x86 server.
Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and private clouds
Interviewer: The growing use of hyperconverged infrastructure or HCI is a private cloud architecture trend. Tell us, what is hyperconverged infrastructure and how does it work?
James: With hyperconverged infrastructure, compute, storage, and network are put together and consumed differently than in a converged infrastructure. Traditionally, private cloud architecture uses a separate external storage system accessed through a network. In contrast, hyperconverged storage is placed inside the physical footprint of the compute devices, a server with drives. Instead of using disk arrays to provide redundancy and resiliency, software-defined storage enables the virtual machines to access hyperconverged storage. Software-defined storage is not limited to private clouds but is a form of hyperconverged infrastructure used in private cloud architecture.
The network can also be hyperconverged, which is called software-defined networking. The same physical network exists, but the intelligence moves up the stack into the software. This allows the creation of additional network segments within a private cloud without physically touching the network – no need to call a network engineer to change the network switches. Instead, we use software to create routes between network segments without leaving the private cloud servers. The routing occurs within the server – without going out on a wire, finding a router, and coming back again. So HCI is both more convenient and higher performance.
With software-defined networking we can add firewall rules between network segments without going to a separate firewall. In addition, micro-segmentation enables greater security within a network segment. We can take two adjacent VMs in the same network segment and prevent them from talking to each other unless we allow it, increasing the security posture of the private cloud. Security can be placed at VM endpoints within a hyperconverged private cloud, as opposed to the edge outside of the private cloud, which also increases security.
A private cloud administrator can coordinate the hypervisor and the hyperconverged storage and network with a single management tool. The management software ensures that the physical requirements are met to enable the software-defined storage and networking.
Steve: While some customers are choosing hyperconverged infrastructures for their private clouds, others are choosing a traditional three-tier approach. With a private cloud, you can specialize it to a customer’s needs, and sometimes the three-tier converged architecture still has benefits. Hyperconverged infrastructure offers advantages in cost, scale and performance – it consolidates commodity servers with embedded storage and software-defined features, and its switching architecture can scale up if the customer needs more network throughput. But HCI is a newer technology with a learning curve. Sometimes comfort level and experience with a technology makes converged infrastructure the better choice for the customer.
More on cloud architecture
Read the first two parts of our architecture series: Q&A: Let’s Talk About Cloud Architecture and Q&A: Simplifying Private Cloud Architecture. Stay tuned for the next parts in the series where we cover multitenant, cloud security, networking, DRaaS, and multicloud/hybrid cloud architectures. To learn more about hosted private cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure for your business, contact us today.