Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) gives organizations the ability to deliver the agile, scalable IT infrastructure, typically available via the public cloud, but with the security and control of the private cloud. In this post, I want to provide some perspectives on the benefits covered in the 451 Research: What Enterprises Can Get from HCI report, then drill down on two specific uses cases for HCI that will benefit your organization whether you house your workloads in your own infrastructure or with a third-party provider.
What is Hyperconverged Infrastructure?
Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) combines compute, network, and storage resources onto one device. These devices can be configured via software, making them ideal for remote implementation. Plug the devices in locally, and they can be configured by IT managers thousands of miles away. Or, they can even be preconfigured by central IT or a third-party provider before being shipped to their final destination.
3 core benefits of Hyperconverged Infrastructure
The 451 Research Market Report focuses on three key benefits. Again, you can download the market report but let me summarize these quickly.
In the report, this benefit focuses on how HCI vendors and providers can deliver purpose-built devices, e.g., hardened devices for harsh environments, such as an industrial site, or high-performance GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) for rendering video streams at scale.
451 Research focuses on how infrastructure providers like TierPoint can use HCI to quickly tailor services and capacity to customer needs. The same is true for those who are managing their own data centers or deploying their own hardware in a colocation arrangement.
#3 Interim solution for legacy applications
Data center operators can use HCI to consolidate legacy applications. This is another good use for a purpose-built device. For example, a device can be configured for the legacy application, increasing stability and security, while not compromising performance for other, more modern applications.
With these benefits in mind, let me drill down on a couple of specific use cases that are particularly timely based on current data center trends.
HCI Use case #1: Getting out of the legacy data center business
The 451 Research report speaks to how HCI can be used with legacy applications, but I want to broaden that out into legacy data centers. After PCs became widely used in business, there was a proliferation of on-prem data centers fueled by the move from mainframes to wide area networks. Instead of centralizing IT operations, organizations often maintained data center operations at each physical location. This helped cut down on latency. In addition, localized operations, at least theoretically, allowed for a more agile response to market demands.
Many businesses ended up with multiple data centers, some amounting to no more than a rack of servers housed in a storage closet. Each of these data centers required an investment in hardware, IT personnel, and environmental controls, e.g., cooling, humidity, power control, and conditioning, etc. The costs piled up quickly.
Over the last several years, the trend has reversed itself, with some of the world’s largest companies moving away from on-prem data centers. For example, just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for most financial services firms to house data exclusively in the cloud. Yet, at the close of 2019, Capital One announced plans to shutter its remaining proprietary data centers by the end of 2020. Gartner predicts that 80% of enterprises will have followed suit by the end of 2025.
With compute, storage, and networking on one device, HCI appliances typically have a smaller footprint. This can be a big plus if you’re looking to consolidate multiple smaller data centers into one on-prem data center. Less square footage is required. This is also a valuable benefit if you’re looking to colocate equipment in a third-party data center. Again, less square footage is required, providing you with additional flexibility in where and with whom you entrust your systems. If there’s a physical move involved, HCI devices are also easier to move and reconnect once they reach their new home.
HCI use case #2: Reduce energy consumption
Another benefit that doesn’t get talked about enough is how HCI can help lower energy consumption. Logically it makes sense. Less hardware should draw less power directly and require less power to cool. But how much less?
As reported in Energy Innovation, more than 40% of the average data center’s power consumption is used for cooling and power provision. Migrating workloads to the cloud (essentially someone else’s data center) allows the business to offload those costs. Even if you pay for them indirectly through monthly fees, professional data center operators are in the business of keeping costs low, so you’re still benefiting from reduced power consumption.
But how about if you switch from traditional resource configuration to HCI devices? I’ve not yet seen data directly related to HCI, but we can extrapolate based on data from a 2017 study IDC conducted on behalf of VMware. This study looked at the reduction in power usage (and CO2 emissions) resulting from VMware’s server virtualization applications. Server virtualization is similar to HCI in that it helps you consolidate physical servers. HCI goes a step further by allowing you to also combine storage and compute resources on the same device.
IDC’s study found that in 2016 alone, power consumption was reduced by over 135 million megawatts (MW) thanks to VMware’s server virtualization solutions. To put this in perspective, this is roughly 10% of the energy consumed by all U.S. households that year.
Here’s another way to look at it. If the average data center (not counting those racks in the storage closet) uses about 100 MW of energy every year. Doing the math, the energy savings from virtualization is equivalent to shuttering roughly 13.5 million data centers. This saving doesn’t count those data centers that were actually shut down, so the energy savings may be even higher.
Will hyperconverged infrastructure help your business?
Many businesses are still exploring how hyperconverged infrastructure can benefit their IT infrastructure. A trusted provider can help you explore this option and provide expertise on how to properly implement it for your business. At TierPoint, we make extensive use of hyperconverged infrastructure across our 40+ data centers, especially for our private hosted cloud clients. Let’s chat about how we can help you.
To learn more, download the free market report from 451 Research: What Enterprises Can Get from HCI.