November 14, 2017
All across the technology industry, developers and tech enthusiasts are trumpeting hyperconvergence for its simplicity, ease of management, and cost savings over traditional data center architectures. With a closer look, it’s easy to see how the benefits of hyperconvergence have made this solution so appealing.
Hyperconvergence is more about the business than the IT department, bizarre as that statement may be. Improving IT infrastructure management is certainly a goal, but the true aim of hyperconvergence is to elevate business agility. There is a need in the market for a cost effective solution that can keep a business nimble enough to compete despite the constant shift of new technology and changing factors. Hyperconvergence fills that niche nicely.
What is Hyperconvergence?
To understand what hyperconvergence is and why it is beneficial, you must first understand traditional data center design to see how it compares. In a standard data center today, a switch will route traffic to a collection of servers which house virtual machines on their hypervisors. Then, these servers must access the storage area network (SAN) through the storage controller in order to retrieve or store any relevant data.
When server virtualization was developed, we saw a drastic reduction in the amount of equipment used in the average data center. This consolidated the data center from a sprawling series of servers to something more manageable. Hyperconvergence can be seen as the next step in this consolidation trend.
The average data center architecture will resemble something like this:
A Hyperconverged architecture, by comparison, will look like this:
Hyperconvergence: A New Approach
As you can see, hyperconvergence is a drastically different approach to a data center. It removes the SAN completely. The hypervisor, server, and storage are now all fused into a single appliance called a node. To scale the solution, you just need to deploy additional nodes.
In the design, you’ll notice that the hyperconvergence solution includes both a solid state drive (SSD) and a hard disk drive (HDD), but this may vary by developer. There are all flash hyperconvergence solutions on the market today.
Finally, hyperconvergence is sometimes described as the software defined data center (SDDC), because a hyperconverged infrastructure is managed centrally by a single piece of software. Storage, compute, and the virtual machines are all managed by that same application.
Besides consisting of less physical equipment, hyperconvergence provides a number of important benefits to the IT environment and the business as a whole.
1) Software-defined storageStorage in a hyperconverged infrastructure is software-defined. The storage nodes act as one highly-reliable and redundant pool of storage. Should one node go down, the rest will remain unaffected.
2) Agility: In a hyperconverged infrastructure, your workloads all fall under the same administrative umbrella. This makes it easier to migrate workloads from one location to another.
3) Scalability: Because of the node-based architecture, it is very easy to scale up your hyperconverged data center. Simply add or subtract nodes to match your resource demand.
4) Data protection: Hyperconvergence gives an organization the ability to easily restore data.
5) Cost efficiency: Hyperconvergence brings an affordable economic model to any IT department. Because there is less equipment to purchase, maintain, and support, the recurring costs of supporting a hyperconverged data center are lower.
By delivering virtualization, storage, compute, network, management and data protection in an easy to manage but scalable application, an organization has the ability to seamlessly manage their complex infrastructure. Hyperconvergence is definitely emerging as a pivotal architecture for organizations of all sizes. Not only is it cost effective, but it plays a very important role in managing a company’s infrastructure.
Hyperconvergence Use Cases
Consolidating the Data Center
The first and most obvious use case is consolidating the data center. In the hyperconverged model, the SAN is gone entirely. Along with it goes any storage controllers and the entire storage array. In its place is the compact hyperconverged appliance. If data consolidation is a priority, hyperconvergence is a clear solution. Just a glance at the diagrams above will reveal that fact.
Deploying a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
One of the major advantages of hyperconvergence is its ability to non-disruptively scale by adding new nodes. In a VDI deployment, this can be a major boon. Instead of overprovisioning as your company and VDI applications grow, a hyperconverged data center can layer on new nodes as the need arises.
Furthermore, the lack of a SAN removes the possibility of storage bottlenecks. The storage arrays are physically connected to the servers running the VDI application.
Performing Testing and Development
Hyperconvergence makes it easy to create logical separations for a testing and development environment. This both prevents the development team from creating a Shadow IT environment in the public cloud as well as empowers them to use best-of-breed equipment for their development needs.
If a portion of your team is not located on-site, data center management can prove a serious challenge. But, in a hyperconverged infrastructure, the data center in its entirety can be managed remotely from the same central portal.
Though hyperconvergence appears on all levels to be a viable new approach to data center design, it does have its drawbacks that need to be weighed against its benefits. One of the potential issues with hyperconvergence is that it unifies the data center under a single vendor.
On the one hand, this eliminates the frustrating compatibility and integration issues that arise in multi-vendor data centers. On the other hand, it locks you into a single vendor for the life of the equipment.
It will be interesting to see how this plays in the larger marketplace as we move forward and whether manufacturers will begin to offer compatibility between hyperconvergence solutions.
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