4 Good Reasons to Replace Aging IT Infrastructure with HCI

How hyperconvergence improves the scalability, speed, agility, resilience, and operational efficiency of the IT infrastructure.

By Dipti Parmar

By Dipti Parmar November 21, 2019

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) streamlines the deployment and management of IT resources in the enterprise. HCI uses software to unify servers, networks and storage arrays into an agile software-defined data center that scales with the needs of businesses.

Embracing hyperconverged infrastructure means moving away from legacy IT infrastructure and hardware architecture. Such a move calls not just for upfront investments, but also an organization-wide show of faith in the switch from dated technologies to a cloud-based, software-driven infrastructure. This technology combines the varied functions of computing, storage, and networking into a single platform. There are compelling reasons for organizations to adopt an HCI:

  • Costs: Traditional SANs have a high TCO due to software licenses, power, cooling and frequent upgradation needs (both hardware and software). Then, there are multiple vendors and specialists who are needed to manage disparate information systems. Implementing an HCI reduces all of these to a one-time expense.

  • Complexity: A traditional infrastructure keeps growing in complexity with the addition of racks, cables, switches, servers and software. Multiple vendors and service providers are needed to manage all of these. HCI consolidates the key elements of the datacenter and simplifies operations with a single point of management.

  • Cloud: Legacy infrastructures aren't built to scale to the multi-cloud, hybrid or even private cloud requirements of present-day IT operations. An HCI solution lets organizations instantly scale out capacity in the data center and often provide connectivity to hybrid and multi-cloud architectures.

The last couple of years have been a testimony to the confidence that organizations large and small have shown in the power of hyperconverged infrastructure.

Research by the Evaluator Group reveals that 79% of large enterprises are expanding their use of HCI. This growing acceptance of hyperconverged infrastructure is not just limited to peripheral cloud applications or deployments. HCI is firmly making its way into mainstream workloads and lending its flexibility and ease of use to key organizational workloads as well. By 2020, 20% of business-critical applications currently deployed on three-tier IT infrastructure will transition to hyperconverged infrastructure, according to Forecast Analysis: Integrated Systems, Worldwide, 2Q18 Update by Gartner.

The evolving face of HCI offers many compelling reasons for businesses to switch over from legacy infrastructure.                     

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

Hyperconverged infrastructure relies on commodity hardware, unified by an overarching layer of software that combines the typical three tiers of legacy IT infrastructure, including computing, storage and networking equipment. Specialized equipment doesn’t need to be bought, maintained and upgraded year after year. 

With hyperconverged infrastructure, a single software platform performs all these functions and offers a “single pane of glass” to view, track and manage each task with pinpoint precision. 

Source: Nutanix Whitepaper

Businesses can choose to pay as they go by buying only as much storage or computational capabilities as they currently need, with the option to upgrade seamlessly as their needs grow. This lowers the barriers to entry for smaller businesses, democratizing the latest technological capabilities among the masses.

A classic example of this democratization can be seen in the case of  the Blue Springs School District in Kansas City, Missouri. A system of 22 elementary, middle and high schools, the school district deployed a stand-alone data center per school, with a total of 144 servers that demanded hundreds of person-hours of maintenance, monitoring and updating. It was only after the move to a unified hyperconverged infrastructure by Nutanix that the school discovered the tremendous savings that they made by doing away with their multiple servers and data centers. Now, their entire IT support infrastructure is reduced to half a rack in a single data center, simplifying data management as well as systems maintenance. The best part? The school system saves over $100,000 in electricity costs each year thanks to the now-defunct servers.

Save Time, Improve Productivity

WIth hyperconverged infrastructure, tasks like monitoring systems functionality or patching through software updates are automated, freeing up time and resources for IT staff. When the focus of the IT team is no longer merely keeping the lights on, they have the bandwidth to delve into innovative ways of managing the company's IT infrastructure. New initiatives like IoT or enhanced security or even improved DevOps methods can be undertaken that exponentially improve productivity and contribute to the bottom line of the business.

This time savings is not just hypothetical. The State of the Enterprise Datacenter report revealed that 24% of companies that had adopted HCI had staff that worked over 40 hours per week. In contrast, companies that had not implemented HCI had 50% more people working more than 40 hours per week.

Delivering high performance for multiple applications and workloads working simultaneously can be resource-intensive. However, with the shared pool of resources that hyperconverged infrastructure offers, high performance can be delivered without breaking the bank.

Modern Workloads Fulfill Needs of Internal Customers

A growing concern for IT in recent times is the explosive growth in data flowing into, and being processed and generated by, businesses daily. This volume of data demands vastly enhanced storage facilities, powerful data processing capabilities and reliable data delivery systems. Legacy IT infrastructure typically struggles to keep pace with these burgeoning needs.

Switching to a hyperconverged IT ecosystem allows businesses to run their processes while offering options to expand storage capabilities into public, private or hybrid clouds. Companies also have the power to upgrade processing capabilities with newer and more agile cloud-based applications, without having to worry about supporting them all.

The Nutanix State of the Enterprise Datacenter Report also revealed that the key benefit realized from HCI deployment is operational efficiency. Other outcomes that companies experienced or expected to realize from hyperconvergence were scalability, data efficiency, agility, and improved support.

“Hyperconvergence drives greater efficiency, scalability and lower TCO — but perhaps its most important aspect is dramatically reducing daily operational burden on IT staff,” said Gil Haberman, senior director of product marketing for Nutanix. “

“It empowers cloud operators to focus on high-value, motivating projects that drive greater impact on the business.”

Source: 2018 State of the Enterprise Datacenter Report

Workloads that demand higher computational power or the ability to connect to different apps across the organization's IT setup can run unhindered by scaling up the shared resources offered by the HCI platform. As Eric Burgener, Research Director at IDC puts it, "When your business grows, and it's time to expand, you just buy an x86 server with some additional storage in it, you connect it to the rest of the hyperconverged infrastructure, and the software handles all of the load balancing. It’s very easy to do that, and it’s a single purchase.”

HCI's on-demand scalability and support of the latest applications make it the perfect solution to help with digital transformation and modernization of the IT enterprise.

Keep Security Concerns at Bay

With 94% of enterprises using cloud services in one form or another, they have to be prepared to address the accompanying security concerns that come with public clouds. Many organizations choose private clouds instead, in order to retain greater control over their data and applications. However, not all businesses have that choice. Leaning on public clouds is inevitable in many cases. As many as 45% of companies deploy a combination of public and private clouds – read hybrid cloud.

With hyperconverged infrastructure, all the different cloud services – whether public or private – are brought under one platform. HCI makes it easy to view, control, and manage data and applications across cloud systems. Industries like healthcare that have strict regulations and data governance requirements have the option of storing their most critical data, like PII for customers, on a private cloud without hindering any workflows even when the organization operates on a hybrid cloud environment.

Security features that would have cost additional time and resources to select, deploy, and maintain, in a traditional IT setup come built-in with HCI platforms. The availability of multiple networks through the same systems ensures uptime and maximum availability. Maintaining snapshots of critical data, data encryption, and replication help with maintaining the integrity of data across the entire ecosystem. Additional data security in the form of data backup and recovery systems are other welcome perks of hyperconverged infrastructure.

To Hyperconverge or Not

Any change is hard. When it comes to trading in existing tried and tested IT infrastructure for completely new and to some extent, unknown hyperconverged infrastructure, some degree of reluctance is understandable. However, any such transition should be weighed against the long-term benefits it brings with it.

Sebastian Lagana, research manager at IDC, reiterates, “Hyperconverged infrastructure remains the primary growth driver in the converged systems market. Reduced operating complexity, ease of deployment, and excellent fit within hybrid cloud environments continue to drive HCI adoption across a broad range of customers and workloads."

Does an easy-to-manage, versatile, and powerful IT management platform sound tempting to your organization? Then the road ahead is clear – it’s hyperconvergence all the way!

Featured Image by Pexels  

Dipti Parmar is a contributing writer. She has written for CIO.com, Entrepreneur, CMO.com and Inc. Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @dipTparmar.

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