Applications have diverse requirements, and rarely can a single cloud computing environment meet the needs of every application. Data analytics and AI applications have different IT needs from email or mobile sales apps. Streaming video needs high-performance processing while video editing needs massive amounts of storage and memory. To meet all of these storage, memory, and processing needs, without breaking the budget, organizations have adopted multicloud and hybrid cloud environments. To ensure their cloud environments are running as efficiently as possible, they turn to hyperconvergence.
Hybrid cloud environments come in many flavors, from multicloud with a mix of public and private clouds and multiple cloud providers or platforms to hybrid cloud environments, which may have public cloud, private cloud, and non-cloud IT workloads or workloads in a colocation facility. The big challenge is not only selecting the right environments for different workloads, but also managing and maintaining all of the moving parts within those environments. Hybrid cloud management has become increasingly complex.
The IT industry has struggled to reduce the complexity of hybrid and multicloud management, through cloud management applications, increased automation, cloud orchestration tools, and software-defined storage and networking. Software-defined infrastructure (SDI) offers greater flexibility in allocating and managing computing resources.
This is where hyperconvergence comes in. Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is an implementation of software-defined infrastructure. HCI consolidates IT resources such as storage, memory, and processing into uniform building blocks, which are sold as either hardware appliances or virtual HCI stacks. These hardware or software nodes contain the CPU, networking, storage, memory, and hypervisor and may be scaled by adding or subtracting HCI nodes. The hypervisor manages virtual machines (VMs) on each node that run the IT resources and applications.
What is converged infrastructure or “converged”?
A converged infrastructure solution is a bit like a data-center-in-a-box, with all the networking, storage, and server hardware pre-selected, pre-configured, tested, and unified on a single hardware appliance. Alternatively, an IT department that already has some of the vendor-specified hardware can buy just a converged infrastructure reference architecture on which to base its own custom solution. This DIY approach may be attractive to IT departments that want to re-use existing hardware investments or that need a highly customized converged infrastructure solution.
What is hyperconverged infrastructure or “hyperconvergence”?
HCI is infrastructure a software defined “platform-in-a-box” with networking, computing, and storage services tightly integrated and installed on a commodity x86 server. These HCI servers can then be stacked and managed as clusters. An HCI platform includes software-defined storage, hypervisor for virtualized computing, an operating system, and virtualized networking, all managed through a single system management console. An organization can also opt to build its own HCI clusters by purchasing a vendor’s HCI software platform and implementing it on any of the x86 servers on the vendor’s list of approved hardware.
The benefits of hyperconvergence for hybrid cloud environments
A big hyperconvergence benefit for hybrid cloud is scalability. While individual HCI devices are limited by the storage, CPU, and memory capacity of the hardware, they can be clustered to share storage space and data between the hosted VMs. If more VMs, memory or storage capacity are required, then more nodes are added to the cluster. Additionally, an IT organization using software HCI can implement it on a high-performance physical server customized to its needs and expandable as demand for resources grows.
HCI offers greater mobility within a hybrid environment. With the addition of a cloud orchestration application, cloud managers can administer and move workloads across public and private clouds as well as between different cloud vendors. That’s useful in hybrid cloud and multicloud settings when workload requirements change and need to be moved to another cloud or non-cloud environment.
Organizations sometimes find they must repatriate a workload or application from the public cloud to a private cloud or on-premise non-cloud system, either because the public cloud didn’t deliver the promised cost savings for that workload or for compliance or performance issues. HCI is making that repatriation more appealing.
Public cloud adoption has been driven largely by the potential for lower, more predictable costs and freedom from the need to invest in hardware. That motivation is still valid. However, the emergence of hyperconverged infrastructure is making private clouds considerably easier and cheaper to build and manage, and easier to move workloads between environments.
Configurable for enterprise workloads
Because HCI is a comprehensive, software-defined environment, it’s configurable for a broad set of enterprise workloads. Additionally, most HCI products support containers as well as VMs, which increases the mobility of workloads. Containers are smaller and lighter than VMs and are portable between environments. Containers bundle applications with their libraries and other dependencies and can be moved to any environment with the same operating system. A container orchestration platform—most commonly the Kubernates platform—provides container management and configuration capabilities.
Ease of management
Over time, HCI vendors are incorporating more sophisticated capabilities into their products, often with hybrid cloud management as a focal point. Some features include service catalogues that support portable workloads, the ability to move data between non-cloud, private cloud, and public cloud environments, and management tools for moving applications between environments.
Organizations today need flexibility to respond quickly to the IT needs of the business. The multiple moving parts inherent in hybrid and multi-cloud environments often make it difficult to identify, deploy, and expand IT solutions fast enough to support business goals. The adoption of hyperconverged infrastructure provides a way forward to reducing IT complexity and increasing IT agility.
Want to explore hyperconvergence for your hybrid cloud?
TierPoint offers support and consulting services on HCI and other infrastructure questions. In addition, we provide customers with access to HCI products and services in its 40-plus data centers across the U.S., as well as a full menu of disaster recovery services and solutions. Contact us to see how we can help you assess your IT environment and find the solutions to manage your hybrid cloud or multicloud platforms.