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What is Hyperconverged Infrastructure?


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HCI stands for Hyper-Converged Infrastructure and is an IT framework that combines storage, computing and networking functionality into a single software solution or appliance. Hyperconverged solutions contain a hypervisor (virtual machine monitor) for virtualized computing, virtualized networking and software-defined storage functionality.

HCI solutions typically run on standardized hardware assets with the added value being in the software-defined elements managed within the hypervisor. Capacity in an HCI is described as nodes, with multiple nodes being clustered together to create large pools of shared compute and storage resources. Since these storage, compute, and network elements are now all software-defined, virtualized across an underlying pool of hardware, resources management can be facilitated across all instances, and the entire environment becomes simpler to manage via a single interface.

As data volumes increase, response times shorten, and data center infrastructures age, IT managers are most likely evaluating or moving towards Software-Defined Storage (SDS) to get more performance out of the same physical footprint. HCI extends that cost, maintenance and space savings to the whole computing stack by combining compute, network and storage functionality into a single, easy-to-manage appliance.

HCI can lower infrastructure total cost of ownership (TCO) by requiring less hardware, thereby lowering your datacenter footprint, which results in lower power, cooling and maintenance costs. A recent study by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) cited a 61% lower datacenter facility cost when using HCI.

HCI can also reduce operational expenses as its modular nature requires less administration, reduces deployment times and simplifies management. The same ESG study from 2016 found that HCI could reduce personnel costs by up to 77% by minimizing the number of silos, people, and hours spent performing routine administration and maintenance tasks. Finally, hyperconverged systems scale seamlessly. Adding capacity is as easy as adding a node, and all nodes are managed via the same single interface.

Hyperconverged infrastructure is the next phase of the evolution of the data center. The hardware-defined systems of the past are showing their age, rigidness and inability to serve the needs of modern consumers. Converged infrastructures have been compressed and their elements have been virtualized and software-defined, removing the silos from IT.

Just as we no longer carry around a phone, camera and GPS separately, but rather carry around a converged device containing software-defined elements within a single form factor, the days of silos within the data center are numbered. HCI can help you meet your IT performance objectives, while decreasing maintenance costs and data center sprawl. With HCI, you can start small with a department-level project and scale rapidly due to the node and cluster nature of virtualization.

With many HCI vendors on the market, making the right decision will take some planning and forethought. It is a good idea to either do an internal audit or consult with a third-party vendor or business partner to help your stakeholders define their needs and priorities. If you are already working with a vendor to help you move further along the software-defined storage value paradigm/scale, it makes sense to start with them. However, beware of vendor lock-in, keep your options open and define project success before implementing aspects of the HCI value proposition.

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