Lee Caswell is Vice President of Products, Storage and Availability for VMware.
Hyperconverged infrastructure, or HCI, represents an important shift in how IT infrastructure is being deployed, managed and maintained. Hyperconverged integrated systems (HCISs) will be the fastest-growing segment, increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48 percent in the forecast period. That’s three times faster than the overall market, and is tagged by Gartner to reach $8.6 billion by 2020.
This is in stark contrast to the sharp declines underway in the legacy storage area network (SAN) storage and LCI markets.
As enterprises shift from legacy-converged infrastructure (LCI) to HCI, there are material differences between the two architectures that should be considered as organizations design modern infrastructure, regardless of whether new data centers are located on-premises, at managed service providers or in the public cloud.
LCI Packages Up Separate Servers, Storage and Networking Elements
Traditional three-tier infrastructure relies on three physically and logically separate products: centralized storage, storage networking and server compute. Each “silo” has a separate upgrade cycle and management domain that tends to make the products complex to manage and inflexible for changing workload requirements.
It typically takes months of planning just for organizations to verify interoperability and purchase the individual components, and then even more time to integrate them all effectively.
The LCI market was originally created by storage, server and networking companies that banded together to ensure interoperability, accelerate deployment and simplify some management tasks of these complex and disparate systems. Because the LCI approach presumes traditional separate server, storage and network architectures, there is simply no way for LCI systems to realize material capital cost reductions, remove software layers or eliminate management panes.
HCI Integrates Server, Storage and Network Elements
HCI introduces a fundamentally new software-based, scale-out architecture of reliable, high-performance shared storage that is built on the latest, low-latency flash technology. By caching storage writes across scale-out server nodes, HCI can integrate virtualized compute resources with software-based shared storage using a common Ethernet network.
The efficient HCI design cuts 40 percent to 60 percent from legacy infrastructure capital costs by eliminating separate proprietary storage and storage networking hardware. This compelling economic benefit drives HCI adoption wherever cost pressure exists.
HCI further reduces operational costs by 50 percent by consolidating storage and virtual compute management into a single management console. With HCI, there are no independent storage administrators because storage is simply another attribute of a virtual machine. This is markedly different from the LCI approach where storage is configured independently and later assigned to applications and users.
HCI success started with small, niche markets like VDI where there were no separate storage administrators and where a VM-centric management view was preferred. But as enterprise storage features have been introduced, HCI moved quickly into serving the most business-critical workload segments in core data centers.
HCI Extends Naturally to the Public Cloud
HCI carries an important common DNA element with the public cloud – both leverage flash-enabled servers with a software abstraction layer that is hardware-agnostic. This common hardware building block makes it possible for a common software stack to run across the hybrid cloud with common data services. The architectural affinity of HCI makes it possible to extend common storage control planes from on-premises environments to the public cloud in a way that will never happen with proprietary hardware SAN products.
A 2017 Server Refresh is an Opportunity to Deploy HCI
For customers looking to try HCI, a server refresh offers a compelling opportunity. More than 10 million Intel x86 servers will be sold this year and server vendors are refreshing their product lines with the latest Intel Xeon Scalable processors. For hardware enthusiasts, the processing power of these new servers combined with NVMe flash and low-latency networks is incredibly exciting.
HCI is a powerful tool for the modern data center and 2017 server refreshes are an excellent opportunity to realize the capital savings and operational efficiencies from this new architecture.
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