In recent years, IT organizations have looked to converged infrastructure (CI) to address these requirements. Now, many companies are instead choosing hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), especially as part (or in lieu) of a server refresh, to provide a flexible core system for running even mission-critical applications. “The way that business is operating IT is changing, especially because of virtualization and the cloud. It’s moving away from the traditional three-tier model of compute, virtualization, and storage,” says Chad Dunn, vice president of product management for VMware HCI products at Dell EMC. “By adopting the all-in-one model of a hyper-converged infrastructure, IT is able to free resources and realize cost savings for an increased focus on innovation and meeting business needs.”
IT finds an answer in HCI
HCI integrates compute, software-defined storage (SDS), and networking functionality into hardware appliances that are pre-engineered, pre-validated, and ready to deploy. A hyper-converged system also uses a hypervisor for system, workload, and data management. The integrated HCI design helps IT efficiently and cost-effectively modernize data centers, break down silos of infrastructure complexity, and save time and resources for streamlined operations.
An additional benefit of integrated HCI systems is the end-to-end lifecycle management and automation, which enable speed, scalability, and predictability in the data center to better serve business needs. Time-to-value of IT services also is accelerated because HCI is 73% faster to deploy than standard server infrastructures. The right HCI platform simplifies the entire system lifecycle from deployment to management, scalability, and maintenance. Additionally, the platform can operate as a single product, which eliminates the need to manage multiple infrastructure tiers and allows updates to be downloaded and installed as a single software package.
In the past, HCI was seen primarily as a solution to serve specialized IT needs. An initial use of HCI was to provide a separate “island” infrastructure, such as to deliver virtual desktop interface (VDI) or core infrastructure workloads for a special project, or to deliver new IT services. The second common HCI use case was to support remote office connectivity, especially for VDI deployments.
Today, IT departments are moving beyond that limited perception and deploying HCI more broadly, including to support multiple missioncritical workloads. Whether they are businesscritical applications, core infrastructure, databases, or customer relationship management (CRM) systems, HCI solutions are now being used to support a wide variety of traditional and cloudnative workloads.
Designed for the era of web-scale and cloud
HCI is a type of converged infrastructure that natively integrates compute, storage, and storage networking functions into a single appliance. HCI is based on a web-scale architecture designed to support public and private clouds with pooled hardware resources, workload adjacency, and a distributed file system or object store. HCI doesn’t need to replace an existing converged infrastructure and HCI doesn’t eliminate CI as a choice for IT.
Instead, both infrastructure architectures are valid options, but for distinct data center strategies. These factors will help in understanding the key differences:
● HCI is completely software-defined; memory, CPU, and other resources scale together.
● CI does not support SDS, so it may be the right solution for environments with known storage requirements.
● HCI offers simpler deployment and management because a single appliance integrates multiple, standardized functions.
● CI maintains IT’s familiar and established architecture of separate resources for compute, storage, and networking.
“When you’re moving from a traditional three-tier infrastructure, it’s important to understand there isn’t a straightforward translation from the existing environment,” says Dunn. “One factor to help make the choice for new data center infrastructure is to look at each workload’s requirements for memory and I/O. Then, look at how those requirements can be supported with the different
performance characteristics of HCI and CI.”
HCI is running business-critical applications
New research from IDG confirms that HCI is experiencing high levels of adoption. In a survey of IT executives, 85% indicate their companies already use or plan to use HCI, and 50% of current HCI users expect to expand their deployment. But what types of applications are running on those HCI deployments? As a sign of confidence in the HCI approach, 50% of survey respondents are already running or planning to run finance, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and other business-critical applications on HCI, and another 20% are considering HCI for running these applications.
Dell EMC VxRail illustrates why companies are increasingly running the most demanding business-critical apps on HCI. VxRail on the latest PowerEdge servers delivers up to two times more IOPS, with half the response times (up to 80% IO utilization). It also offers greater all-flash and hybrid storage capacity and more GPU cards for increased graphics acceleration, while leveraging higher endurance and redundant boot devices. The survey also found companies are using HCI for multiple application workloads, including collaboration and productivity, engineering and technical, big data and analytics, and remoteoffice computing. Of course, the ability of the infrastructure to maintain strong security is a top concern for deploying any of these applications. The IDG survey found that, among companies that are already leveraging HCI, 57% see the avoidance of security risk due to improved data security and control as one of the most appealing benefits of HCI.
HCI’s time has come
It’s clear from the IDG research results that HCI is now a mainstream technology for the modern data center. IT organizations are looking beyond nonmission-critical use cases for HCI deployment. They are choosing HCI for the high value it delivers to simplify infrastructure deployment and management, make more use of cloud services, scale for more data, and better support
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