Although IT leaders face increased pressure to shift outlays to application services that deliver directly at the bottom line, infrastructure challenges – and the cost of solutions – remain on the rise. In Q1 of 2022, IT cloud infrastructure spending totaled $12.5 billion, according to IDC. That was 15.7% higher than total spending in the same quarter in 2021. That pace would lead to a 24.3% increase in IT infrastructure spending year over year. While businesses would prefer to compete based on products and services, the coming challenges of infrastructure management – largely based in the incompatibility of legacy systems with new technologies – demand attention and new solutions.
In recent years, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) has become a proven IT infrastructure problem-solving technology and a way to bridge private with public cloud, otherwise known as hybrid multicloud.
There are inevitable challenges to modernizing, integrating or replacing legacy IT systems. HCI is helping IT leaders achieve and scale the computing and storage performance standards necessary to compete in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
What Is Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI)?
HCI refers to integrating disparate servers and storage systems into a distributed infrastructure platform to yield flexible resource blocks that replace legacy infrastructures involving separate servers, storage networks, and storage arrays.
Specifically, HCI addresses common legacy infrastructure pain points by summing vendor data center hardware capacities with those of connected storage devices through the mediation of a distributed layer of intelligent software.
IT leaders often struggle to manage patchwork systems of hardware from different vendors tied together by insufficient networking gear that renders it impossible to provision the system through a single interface. This ad hoc approach results in cobbled-together improvisations that cause oversights, diminished visibility, and wasted IT resources.
HCI attempts to bring single-point management and integration solutions to these problems. Using multiple, heterogenous data centers has always introduced two seemingly intractable problems into IT infrastructure management:
- Suboptimal performance through resource waste
- Unmanageability from the top-down
The purpose of HCI is to virtualize system resources – computation, storage, and networking – and to deliver them in scalable units through a single platform.
HCI has two deployment configurations: Hardware and software.
Hardware Deployment – In hardware deployments, HCI aggregates computational, storage, and network resources through a server computer, often referred to as an appliance. These appliances can vastly improve performance for high-demand workloads such as real-time data analytics and artificial intelligence.
Software Deployment – In software deployments, HCI is an abstract software layer that virtualizes and manages hardware components. This approach offers HCI benefits to organizations without deep investment in new hardware. Naturally, the scale of HCI improvements through software deployment remains limited by the performance capacity of existing hardware. Nevertheless, HCI software dramatically enhances the resource efficiency of systems scattered across data centers and enables IT teams to administer resources through a single interface.
HCI Solutions to IT Challenges
Regardless of the specifics of your immediate IT infrastructure needs, HCI delivers an array of solutions to IT problems shared across industries and organizations of different sizes and operational requirements.
Purchasing microservices from multiple vendors gives organizations the freedom to choose solutions by use case or to pick between low-cost and high-end options. However, this freedom to build infrastructure piecemeal comes at a cost. System administrators must procure and configure all necessary hardware and software, often relying on proprietary vendor tools with limited scope beyond their parent product.
HCI recreates the benefits of working with a single service vendor without the constraints of vendor lock-in. Using software-defined and virtualization technologies, HCI integrates and optimizes resources, delivering them as scalable units that deploy easily and scale with demand.
This year, 53% of IT leaders report accelerating their adoption of AI/ML technologies, compared to 41% in 2021. As the need for real-time data analytics increasingly becomes universal to enterprise-level operations, this adoption rate will only continue to surge. Recent surveys of users of the container orchestration tool Kubernetes found that 65% of organizations use container clusters for AI/ML workloads.
Because HCI can deliver instantly scalable units of computing and storage resources, it is an optimal solution for containerized AI/ML workloads that require spinning in enormous volumes of separate instances.
With accelerated digital transformation continuing apace across industries, organizations have an exponentially increased need for data from the edge– IoT devices, remote sites, sensor data, and various mobile access devices. Organizations must move computational and storage resources out of centralized data centers and closer to the edge to cope with data processing and storage demands. The deployment versatility of HCI renders this adjustment far easier and more efficient than is possible with traditional infrastructure management tools.
Editor’s note: Learn more about the Nutanix Cloud Platform powered by HCI.
Michael Brenner is a keynote speaker, author and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. Michael has written hundreds of articles on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Guardian, and he speaks at dozens of leadership conferences each year covering topics such as marketing, leadership, technology and business strategy. Follow him @BrennerMichael.
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