• What is Hyper Converged Infrastructure?

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Hyper converged infrastructure is a cloud-like business IT solution (managed by a single vendor) that combines the traditional three tier infrastructure (‘compute’, ‘storage’, & ‘networking’) into a software centric single server/node architecture. The benefits of a hyperconverged infrastructure include lowered costs (hardware & human resources), ease of rollout & management, and seamless scalability to meet with demand. 

Traditional vs Converged vs Hyper Converged 

In order to understand and appreciate the value proposition around a hyper converged infrastructure, we must identify the key markers in the evolution of the technology, highlighting the path of beneficial progression to business. To do this, we will look at and compare a traditional IT solution, a converged IT infrastructure, and a hyper converged IT infrastructure. 

  • Traditional IT SolutionTraditional ‘legacy technology’ involves the integration of the separate IT hardware servers (i.e. network, compute, storage arrays) capable of supporting core business functions. Therefore, designing a fit-for-purpose IT infrastructure necessarily involves the risk and cost of trial and error, which may not prove inefficient in terms of ROI.
  • Converged IT Infrastructure - A converged IT infrastructure reduces the trial and error process by providing a validated design, comprising a pre-tested configuration of hardware components known to operate effectively for a given purpose. The collaborative approach to combining complementary hardware units also serves to expedite focused support from the relative manufacturers. 
  • Hyper Converged IT Infrastructure - The three tier infrastructure is combined into a single server/node supplied and supported by a single vendor. The separate components exist as software within the server, minimising hardware costs and simplifying the scaling-up process (simply add more servers to the core system to increase network capacity/functionality).  

What are the Comparative Benefits of a Hyper Converged Infrastructure? 

Traditional and converged infrastructures involve a DIY approach to researching, purchasing, and integrating the three hardware layers of IT infrastructure (compute, storage, network). These physical servers/nodes may potentially come from separate vendors, meaning the final product is, in effect, an untested design that is built and maintained by in-house IT staff.

The issue with this DIY approach is that problems may arise during the build and integration phase as well as during the usage of the product, creating the risk of downtime and increasing potential maintenance costs. A converged infrastructure goes some way to resolving these issues by creating a system that is designed and approved by several vendors. 

However, a hyper converged infrastructure compiles the three tier system into a single hardware unit from a single vendor. This creates a software based architecture that relies upon a common set of physical IT resources, all controlled from a central point of management.

This approach leads to several comparative benefits:  

  • Agility- Ease of use due to virtualised integration of systems in a single tier system. This means that an HCI server can be deployed in under one hour. Easy-to-use tools also aid in the ongoing maintenance of the purpose designed integrated system.  
  • Flexibility/Elasticity - Ease of scaling up and building out in response to demand by adding servers/nodes to the central cluster. Users benefit from automated updates and the option to individually scale up or scale down separate ‘compute’ and ‘storage’ elements as required. 
  • Reduced Complexity - Removing layers of physical infrastructure requires limited maintenance in terms of on-site human resources - multi-cloud support from the vendor helps to control costs and create a smoother, faster, more agile user experience. 

A hyper converged infrastructure creates a simplified ‘building block’ style data centre with increased time-to-value appeal. The addition of servers/nodes offers a modular approach to scaling out, which reduces complexity in terms of altering and managing the physical IT infrastructure in response to a greater or lesser demand for access to applications. 

Additional Benefits of Hyper Converged Infrastructure 

A hyper converged infrastructure exists as a stripped down integrated singular component that cannot be broken down into separate compute, storage, and networking components. Along with lowered costs, flexibility, and reduced complexity, this centrally controlled server offers many secondary benefits that are of particular use to business networks:

  • Data ProtectionThe HCI server benefits from automated firewall updates. The risk of data loss is also reduced, with improved recovery times in response to privacy issues. 
  • Faster Speeds - Reduced Bandwidth - With integrated storage and compute elements, bandwidth requirements are prioritised and therefore greatly reduced, resulting in high availability and faster user speeds. 
  • Problem Solving - Faster Resolution Speeds - While a converged infrastructure offers access to expert advice from individual vendors, this can lead to ‘finger pointing’ on behalf of the different service providers. HCI from a single vendor results in faster crisis resolution, which therefore reduces downtime.

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