What is hyper-converged infrastructure?

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) combines common datacenter hardware using locally attached storage resources with intelligent software to create flexible building blocks that replace legacy infrastructure consisting of separate servers, storage networks, and storage arrays. Benefits include lower TCO, increased performance, and greater productivity within IT teams.

The birth of hyperconverged infrastructure

With the web explosion of the 90’s, infrastructure with server-SAN and storage networks was introduced, featuring independent modules that could be updated or changed without affecting other layers. This infrastructure revolutionized IT departments and has been used ever since.

But now, in the era of hybrid cloud, 3-tier can no longer keep up with IT needs. It’s complex, unwieldy, doesn’t provide a firm foundation for DevOps, and can’t scale with the magnitude it used to.

Today, HCI is the infrastructure of choice for companies that want to stay competitive and ensure their datacenters are cloud-ready. Not all HCI solutions are equal. Here's what to look for when choosing a best of breed solution.

How does hyperconverged infrastructure work?

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) Simplifies Datacenter Operations

HCI converges the entire datacenter stack, including compute, storage, storage networking, and virtualization. Complex and expensive legacy infrastructure is replaced by a platform running on turnkey, industry-standard servers that enable enterprises to start small and scale one node at a time. Software running on each server node distributes all operating functions across the cluster for superior performance and resilience.

The components of hyperconverged infrastructure

HCI consists of two main components, the distributed plane and the management plane.

The distributed plane runs across a cluster of nodes delivering storage, virtualization, and networking services for guest applications—whether they’re VMs or container-based apps.

The management plane lets you easily administer HCI resources from one place and one view and eliminates the need for separate management solutions for servers, storage networks, storage, and virtualization.

Nearly all modern hyperconverged infrastructure solutions are 100% software-defined, with no dependency on proprietary hardware. Each HCI node in a cluster runs a hypervisor (Nutanix AHV, VMware ESXi, or Microsoft Hyper-V), and the HCI control features run as a separate virtual machine on every node, forming a fully distributed fabric that can scale resources with the addition of new nodes.

Learn the fundamentals of hyperconverged infrastructure and expert tips to build a fast, efficient and highly scalable enterprise datacenter.

The Definitive Guide to Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI)

Benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure

The benefits of moving from complex legacy infrastructure to the simplicity of hyperconvergence are many, but among the top reasons organizations make the switch are lower costs, improved, consistent performance, a smaller datacenter footprint, greater efficiency and productivity in IT teams, and maximized infrastructure ROI.

Turnkey Infrastructure

Integrated server, storage, networking and virtualization resources along with end-to-end systems management and operations management capabilities.

Fast Deployment

Deploy infrastructure in minutes, so IT teams can elevate their focus to the applications and services powering the business.

100% Software-Driven

Supports a wide variety of different hardware platforms – including three of the four most popular server platforms in the world.

World-Class Platform

Each hyperconverged server (node), includes Intel-powered x86 hardware with flash-based SSDs and traditional HDDs, along with Nutanix software.

Superior Performance and Resilience

Nutanix hyperconverged software running on each node distributes all operating functions across the cluster.

Unprecedented Flexibility

A single cluster can have unlimited nodes, with node types having differing amounts of storage, CPU and memory resources, so you can run multiple workloads with maximum efficiency.

The link between hyperconverged infrastructure and cloud

Enterprise IT teams today are looking for ways to deliver on-premises IT services with the speed and operational efficiency of public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. A comprehensive enterprise cloud platform bridges the gap between traditional infrastructure and public cloud services—and hyperconvergence is at the core of an enterprise or hybrid cloud. The simplicity and flexibility of hyperconverged infrastructure is also driving many companies to repatriate their workloads from the public cloud back on-premises.

Hyperconverged infrastructure and cloud
Leading Hyperconverged Infrastructure Vendors

Get to know the leading hyperconvergence vendors

Download the November 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Discover why more than 13,000 of the world’s most advanced datacenters rely on Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure

SAIC uses Hyperconverged Infrastructure

“If we could use one word to describe the benefits brought by Nutanix, that would be ’trouble-free’. The virtual environment in the past relied on manual operation, which would normally take two days to deliver. But now, only one hour to two hours are needed to complete the same workload.”

JetBlue uses Hyperconverged Infrastructure

“The incremental scalability is a huge plus. We don’t have to buy a big array upfront at a significant cost, and then start populating it slowly over time. If we need more capacity with Nutanix, we can add it gradually as we need it. Nutanix gives us much more control and visibility into our IT spend.”

Related resources

Building a Business Case for HCI

Hyperconverged Infrastructure Test Drive

Top 20 HCI Questions Answered

The Gorilla Guide to Hyperconverged Infrastructure Foundations

HCI quick reads

Get Started with Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI)

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