Converged vs Hyperconverged Infrastructure

What is Non-converged Infrastructure?

Non-converged infrastructure is composed of hardware components which are purchased separately and integrated by the client or by consultants hired by the client. Typically this includes a hypervisor that runs on the servers that enables compute virtualization, and is connected over the network to a centralized SAN or NAS storage array. The architecture is fundamentally the same as Converged Infrastructure (CI), with the major difference being that Converged Infrastructure is pre-integrated by a vendor or is based on a reference architecture jointly developed from the various vendors that make up the solution.

What is Converged Infrastructure?

Converged infrastructure (CI) is a form of datacenter management that combines legacy infrastructure components like storage arrays, servers, network switches, and virtualization onto a single SKU that makes purchasing and deployment easier and more predictable. 

Many businesses choose converged infrastructure because they’ve realized the amount of time and expense involved with sizing, deploying, configuring, and troubleshooting their own hardware. For many, the packaged model CI delivers is more appealing.

With converged infrastructure, systems are designed and integrated by a vendor, packaged into a discrete set of pre-configured options. Rather than needing to buy the various components separately and working through compatibility and integration challenges manually, converged infrastructure marries pre-integrated hardware components with software to orchestrate and provision these resources through a unified system.

As a step up from legacy, multi-tiered infrastructure, CI aims to reduce the complexity that comes with datacenter management. Its design reduces hardware incompatibility issues, and its ease of deployment is appealing to organizations that are looking to reduce time and resources spent integrating and deploying datacenter infrastructure.

What is Hyperconverged Infrastructure?

In contrast, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) takes a completely different approach to support enterprise applications, using intelligent distributed software to combine pools of server and storage resources into a 100% software-defined solution. It replaces the components of legacy infrastructure, i.e., separate servers, storage networks, and storage arrays, with one unified distributed system, creating a highly scalable datacenter.

While both converged and hyperconverged infrastructure hope to eliminate the pain-points associated with legacy infrastructure, there are unique differences between how the two tackle those challenges.

Difference Between Hyperconverged Infrastructure and Converged Infrastructure

Hyperconverged infrastructure is a combination of servers and storage into a distributed platform with intelligent software to create flexible building blocks that replace legacy infrastructure reducing compatibility issues, complex deployments, and overall costs. converged infrastructure on the other hand, is a  hardware-based approach to converging storage and processes. Converged infrastructure also provides a platform for repeatable, modular deployment of datacenter resources for rapid scale and more consistent performance.

Converged Infrastructure vs. Legacy Infrastructure

In a traditional, multi-tiered datacenter (aka, legacy infrastructure), the design requires that servers, storage networks, storage arrays, and other components be individually configured and linked together. In this structure, a dedicated IT team would be responsible for managing a single component, which becomes costly and complex and creates friction that slows down business initiatives.

Converged infrastructure is comprised of the same underlying components as traditional infrastructure, but packages them together into a single purchasable unit for simplified purchasing and deployment. As a result, businesses can minimize the amount of time they spend designing, deploying, and integrating datacenter infrastructure, but the underlying technology is the same as traditional infrastructure with many of the same problems and challenges.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure vs. Legacy Infrastructure

Where converged infrastructure minimizes some of the pains of legacy infrastructure—namely its associated deployment and upkeep costs—hyperconvergence tackles more.

Like converged infrastructure, many organizations choose hyperconvergence because they hope to see financial benefits. Instead of paying a big licensing fee upfront, customers pay subscription fees on a regular cadence. On top of being more economically sound, this method ensures businesses don’t overuse or underuse their resources, which is often the case with the 3-5 year consumption that legacy infrastructure asks businesses to predict.

In addition, the intelligent distributed software powering HCI solutions enables more efficient use of compute and storage resources and removes the need for much of the additional hardware required to power traditional infrastructure. As a result, businesses enjoy lower utility bills and a reduced datacenter footprint.

Converged vs. Hyperconverged: Benefit Breakdown

To better understand the advantages of both infrastructure solutions, consult the side-by-side comparisons of the most sought-after benefits companies require.

Benefit Converged Infrastructure Hyperconverged Infrastructure
Reduces operational expenses    
Streamlines acquisition, deployment, support, and management X  
Reduces “moving” parts, i.e., hardware X  
Enables cloud-level economics X  
Provides a highly scalable environment    
Enables centralized management of virtual environments    
Optimizes resource consumption X  
Improves mobility by shifting management over to apps and VMs X  
Includes built-in data protection and disaster recovery X  
Reduces the total cost of ownership X  
Enables rapid application deployment X  
Reduces the risk of over-provisioning and over-purchasing X  
Cuts down on labor-intensive activities    
Prepares datacenters for DevOps X  

Should Businesses Choose Converged or Hyperconverged Infrastructure?

Simply put, converged infrastructure is the same technology as traditional infrastructure, but is packaged to be easier to consume and deploy. On the other hand, hyperconverged infrastructure takes a completely different approach: using cloud computing technologies implemented entirely in software to enable clusters of commodity server hardware to reliably and predictably power enterprise software services.

Ultimately, HCI is far more flexible, maneuverable, and scalable, delivering a simple, speedy deployment model: “[Hyperconverged infrastructure] is often deployed on commodity components, providing a simplified scale-out architecture with commodity servers.”

Implementing Converged and Hyperconverged Infrastructures

Converged Infrastructure simplifies purchasing by pre-integrating the various components of the infrastructure stack, thereby decreasing the technical integration work that needs to be done by the client. Implementation still requires deploying and configuring multiple hardware components from different vendors and integrating in the datacenter, which can take multiple days or even weeks and often relies on extensive consulting services in order to complete.

Hyperconverged infrastructure greatly simplifies implementation into a straightforward software installation on industry-standard server hardware using a fully integrated deployment automation tool. In contrast to CI deployments, HCI deployments typically take only a couple of hours and can even be performed remotely as long as someone is present to physically rack and connect the hardware.

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