Simplifying Virtual Environments with Hyper-converged Infrastructures

By CIOReview | Monday, June 12, 2017
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In order to simplify the complex architecture of virtual environments, various companies today see the hyper-converged infrastructure as a viable technology. Products that fall under the hyper-converged umbrella are preconfigured and integrate various resources such as computation, storage, and virtualization altogether to work as a single force. One of the early service vendors for the hyper-converged architecture was Nutanix. It has continuously upgraded its platform over the time to compete with other solutions— such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise-owned SimpliVity and Dell EMC—in the market.

A lot of companies are upgrading or replacing conventional systems following latest market trends. With a vast array of converged and hyper-converged infrastructure options to choose from, it is important to carefully determine which HCI can meet the organization’s particular needs. Although VMware hypervisors were initially used to build the hyper-converged products, Nutanix also started to add support for additional hypervisors to assist a broader adoption these products. While choosing an HCI, there are a lot of technological aspects that needs to be evaluated. For example, implementation details of HCI products can involve vendor lock-in. IT departments of any organization must often wait on HCI vendors to catch up with the ever-evolving technological advancements. Although the features offered by hyper-converged systems and software-defined storage are similar, there are a lot of differentiating factors between them.

It is important for IT staff to learn the big picture of hyper-converged infrastructure but, they should also be able to explain its advantages to organization’s management, especially with it still being relatively new. Some of the turnkey features of hyper-converged infrastructure are simplicity; requires less time for configuring components compared to a traditional system, agility supports various storage systems, works in remote and branch offices, and can scale out, and lower cost; requires less hardware and fewer network components, and staff don't need to commit the same amount of time to data center tasks. The discussion below explains the "hype" in hyper-convergence and how the technology can benefit a virtual environment and the HCI options that are available today.

Evolution of Hyper-converged Infrastructures

With the rise of virtualization, some analysts also suggest that invention of converged infrastructure (CI) has created the by-product known as hyper-convergence. Once vendors began designing CI by focusing on virtualization, offerings became hyper-converged. As the product offerings are constantly upgraded and replaced by new ones, differentiating hyper-converged infrastructure from other evolving storage technologies is getting challenging every day.

Hyper-converged architectures are an upgrade to software-defined storage as they create software-defined, scale-out storage systems. These systems then aggregate storage internal to the servers that they are installed on—creating a virtual pool of storage that the virtual machines can access as if they were a shared logical unit number (LUN).

Implementing HCI in a Legacy Environment

Convenience is the first reason a hyper-converged infrastructure might appeal to storage professionals. The need of minimal configurations and readily available commodity hardware allows HCI to be available at a lower price point and helps to better align enterprise IT with their business needs. But, as one size does not fit all, convergence isn't right for everyone, and companies should know what they need before they adopt a new architecture.

The beauty of hyper-convergence is in its non-disruptive implementation. A hyper-converged environment—as a part of overall development—allows organizations to phase in new architectures, and expand as per the requirement of the organization. Applications in the legacy environment can also leverage resources for improving storage performance provided by the hyper-converged environment. Hyper-converged infrastructure eliminates the complexity that can be inherent in these operations. In IT, simplicity is the new mantra, and hyper-convergence is one of the simplest ways to achieve your backup and disaster recovery goals.