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 our post, we explore what it is, and the reasons businesses may choose HCI solution options over the alternatives.
The need to achieve agility in a private cloud
The use of public cloud services offered by vendors such as AWS and Azure is the popular choice. Public clouds allow enterprises to expand IT infrastructure rapidly and meet the demands of today’s dynamic and highly competitive markets.
However, some CTOs and CIOs still prefer the privacy and control of a private cloud for their more sensitive workloads.
This creates a dilemma for the IT leader. The traditional three-tiered architecture of compute, network, and storage resources required to add capacity to a private cloud can take time to procure and deploy. By the time the organization has scaled up to meet the need, the opportunity may have passed them by.
Hyperconverged infrastructure, or HCI, gives IT leaders a way to deliver the agile, scalable IT infrastructure available through the public cloud with the security and control of the private cloud.
What is Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI)?
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.
Three main characteristics of HCI
#1 Commoditized components
HCI components can be commoditized x86 servers, which helps enterprises dramatically cut costs and lower procurement complexities. The organization just needs to procure one type of device instead of separate proprietary storage arrays, controllers, and networking components every time they need to add capacity.
HCI combines compute, network, and storage resources on one device. Think of these as building blocks for your data center. Need more capacity? Add more nodes. This provides enterprises the ability to scale quickly to meet the organization’s needs.
Once in place, resources can be configured remotely through a single console, reducing the complexity of spinning up resources and reconfiguring those resources as needs change.
Top reasons businesses use hyperconverged infrastructure
HCI Use case #1: Getting out of the legacy data center business
Hyperconverged solutions can be used with legacy business-critical 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-premises 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 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-premises data centers. Gartner predicts that 80% of enterprises will ditch their on-premises data centers by the end of 2025.
With compute, storage, and networking on one device, HCI solutions 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, hyperconverged systems 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? 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.
HCI Use Case #3: Edge Computing
Many enterprises are looking to reduce latency in their networks by moving their infrastructure closer to the point of use. For example, an organization with its headquarters in Chicago, but with branch offices in Denver, Allentown, and Nashville might elect to maintain multiple, smaller data centers located nearer these branches instead of one central data center in Chicago. By moving the data center closer to the end user, they cut down not only on the distance their data needs to travel but also on delays due to network congestion.
The challenge is that organizations often lack the resources to fully staff each of these data centers with IT professionals. HCI allows the organization to maintain a much smaller “remote hands” staff that can do the physical work of plugging in commodity components, while a more experienced team from central IT configures these components remotely.
This approach has the added benefit of improving IT governance. Since central IT is configuring the components, they can ensure consistency and adherence to best practices and policies.
HCI can also be used to power a disaster recovery solution. Read our post to learn more: The Benefits of Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Disaster Recovery
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.
HCI is one of the reasons we are able to provide our customers with access to highly scalable, private cloud resources in 40 edge data centers across the United States. By using our hosted private cloud infrastructure, your enterprise can achieve the scalability of a data center powered by HCI, without the overhead that comes with maintaining an on-premises data center.