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Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: A Look Back to See Forward


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Maya Angelou once wrote, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.” In this article we’ll take a look back in time to understand the trends and breakthroughs that have led us to the era of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI).

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) is an IT framework that combines computing, storage and networking functionality into an appliance. HCI systems provide computing, networking and storage functionalities through the same server-based resources or nodes, which creates a simple, easy to manage, single resource pool. HCI nodes combine to create clusters or pools of shared capacity, memory and computing power. These clusters are infinitely scalable and managed via a single interface, making HCI easier to support.

So how did we get here? HCI is the intersection of a few trends, scientific ‘laws’ and the maturation of the underlying and enabling .

Here’s a look into the trends that lead to HCI.

In the late 1990s, higher processor performance from Intel and Linux/open source adoption created the first major building block of HCI, storage virtualization. As storage virtualization improved, it led to server virtualization fueled by companies such as VMware. In 2011 we saw the emergence of converged infrastructure where core aspects of a data center — storage, compute, networking and server virtualization — are combined into a single chassis. Finally, in 2014 we started to see the emergence of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure, which further consolidated data center elements into a single appliance with software-defined functionality.

Now onto the laws, trends and general postulations that predicted and predicated HCI .

Our collective knowledge is always growing. Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve” in 1982; he noticed that until 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II, knowledge was doubling every 25 years and he postulated that by 2000, human knowledge would double every year. Current estimates say that we’re getting close to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. This increasing volume of knowledge translates to massive amounts of data that must be stored, correlated, made readily available to customers, and ultimately mined for value.

We know that Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years, which means that chip performance, and hence computing power, will increase roughly along that same curve. Moore’s prediction proved accurate for several decades, but the growth rate started to slow in 2012. Although not technically a law, Moore’s observation still holds true in that computing power is increasing every year.

A 2005 Scientific American article titled “Kryder’s Law” observed that magnetic disk areal storage density was then increasing very quickly. The pace of increased disk storage density was much faster than the two-year doubling time of semiconductor chip density posited by Moore’s law  –about every 13 months. While Kryder’s growth rate predictions didn’t hold up over the long haul either, the general trend that storage density is increasing yearly remains true.

Still with us?

Let’s sum it up: Knowledge (i.e., data) is increasing yearly, compute power is also increasing, and so is storage capacity. One thing that isn’t increasing is space, as in the available physical space, in your data center. Which is why you need systems that can handle more data and provide more computing power in a compact form factor.

Since these trends will continue to grow, you’ll also need a solution that scales easier as your needs increase. This solution is Hyper-Converged Infrastructure. HCI can lower infrastructure total cost of ownership by requiring less hardware, thereby lowering your data center footprint, which results in lower power, cooling and maintenance costs. HCI nodes and clusters are infinitely scalable — just add another node to increase resources. Hyper-Converged Infrastructure is the next phase in the evolution of the data center and can help you meet your IT needs now and grow with you into the future. Check with your Lenovo business partner to see if HCI is right for your business.


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