Hyperconverged Infrastructure Gives IT a Grip on Constant Change

How HCI helps modernize IT systems, bringing simplicity, scalability and the ability to operate like a private cloud.

By Michael Brenner

By Michael Brenner July 02, 2020

As businesses increasingly rely upon technology to streamline processes, power insights and accelerate efficiencies, traditional data center systems struggle to keep up with the accelerated pace of change facing most businesses and organizations. Taking software-defined approach to IT, based on hyperconverged infrastructures, companies are able to evolve legacy systems so they operate more like a private cloud. These systems can then begin to work with the growing number of public cloud services and more easily scale to meet changing needs.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) combines common data center hardware by using locally attached storage options with smart software. This combination delivers more flexible building blocks to replace legacy infrastructure, including separate servers, storage networks, and storage arrays.

The origins of HCI stretch back to the 1990s, when server-SAN and storage network infrastructure was first introduced. With independent modules that could be changed and updated without impacting other elements, it completely revolutionized the IT field.

Flash forward to when the hybrid cloud became the new go-to for storage, and the three-tier was no longer able to keep up. Things became too complex, and simplification of data center management became a high priority. This created the "convergence" of multiple elements, including:

  • Managing applications and the servers that host them together on a single, accessible platform

  • Collective compute capacity, file storage, memory, and network connectivity

  • Workloads package in the same class of construct typically with virtual machines (VM)

Nutanix pioneered HCI and continues to evolve the technology, allowing it to integrate into existing infrastructure, configure fast and manage costs of scaling data center capabilities to meet changing needs.

How Does Hyperconverged Infrastructure Work?

The crux of HCI is integration. Critical data center functions reside on an integrated software layer, as opposed to hardware. Within this software, there are three components: storage virtualization, computer visualization and management.

The virtualization software gathers the underlying resources, allocating them dynamically to applications running in containers or VM. The configuration aligns with application policies, eliminating the need for LUNs and volumes. With advanced management features, manual tasks can be reduced with automation.

HCI has two main components, the management plane, and the distributed plane. The management plan acts as an administrator for all HCI resources. It allows for a single view, so there's no need for disparate management solutions for storage, servers or virtualization.

The distributed plane provides a cluster of nodes that deliver the storage, virtualization, and networks needed for VM or container-based guest applications.

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HCI allows IT teams to build a fast, efficient, and scalable enterprise data center, essentially creating a private cloud that can operate like and with public cloud services.

What Are the Benefits of a Hyperconverged Infrastructure?

Organizations seek to make the switch to HCI for a variety of reasons based on their infrastructure needs, ultimately aiming to maximize their infrastructure return on investment (ROI). These are the top advantages of employing HCI.

  • Turnkey infrastructure: HCI integrates servers, storage, networking, and virtualization in one solution

  • Accelerated deployment: HCI can be launched in minutes, allowing your IT team to focus on the apps that fuel your business

  • Software-driven: HCI supports three of the four major server platforms

  • High performance and resilience: With software running on each node, there is a complete distribution of all operating systems across the cluster

  • Unmatched flexibility: Each cluster can have an unlimited number of nodes, with each node displaying different attributes for maximum efficiency

HCI natively integrates computer and storage into one server or node. This can reduce the power supply and space needed compared with dedicated storage nodes.

In a traditional IT infrastructure set up, at least eight hardware items containing different interfaces and functions were needed. In this model, costs and complexity are high and, more often than not, on-site management is necessary. HCI collapses hardware silos and allows IT pros to manage workloads remotely in real-time using a single management interface that standardizes nodes.

To make a business case for HCI, compare it to current infrastructure. List what HCI will eliminate and the efficiencies that could be gained. Then access security needs and interoperability with cloud services. Simplification and integration from HCI will modernize IT systems so they can scale more easily and work with new cloud-based services.

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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