Understanding Hyperconverged Infrastructure Use Cases

According to analysts, hyperconverged infrastructure adoption is skyrocketing. Here's what it can be used for.

Bill Kleyman

May 5, 2016

6 Min Read
Silver Servers
(Photo by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images)

Technology is forcing fundamental changes in business landscape, and the data center is at the core of these changes. New levels of user mobility, the pace and style of application delivery are revolutionizing how businesses compete and stay ahead. Your data center is now the driving force behind your business, and as its role evolves, it too must change.

There needs to be a better way to deploy powerful, scalable systems that are integrated and easy to manage. To address this need, a new type of platform has emerged: hyperconverged infrastructure.

First, let’s define the concept. It’s important to note that there are a number of similarities between hyperconverged and converged infrastructure. Both are deployed as blocks, and both converge critical resources to deliver higher density. The biggest difference is in how these environments are managed. In hyperconverged infrastructure, the management layer – storage, for example – is controlled at the virtual layer. Specifically, it incorporates a virtual appliance that runs within the cluster. This virtual controller runs on each node within the cluster to ensure better failover capabilities, resiliency, and uptime.

Hyperconverged infrastructure reduces complexity and fragmentation in managing resources that sit on heterogeneous systems; it can reduce data center footprint; and it can greatly reduce deployment risks with validated deployment architectures.

The demand is there. According to the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems report, “hyperconverged integrated systems will represent over 35 percent of total integrated system market revenue by 2019.” This makes it one of the fastest-growing and most valuable technology segments in the industry today.

A recent IDC report said the market generated 1,261 petabytes of new storage capacity shipments during the third quarter of 2015, which was up 34.8 percent compared to the same period a year ago. The big stat from the report: hyperconverged sales grew 155.3 percent year over year during the third quarter of 2015, generating more than $278.8 million worth of sales. This amounted to 10.9 percent of the total market value.

But where is all this taking place? What are the real-world use cases behind hyperconverged infrastructure, and where is the technology being deployed? Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Virtualization and VDI. One of the greatest benefits to virtualization is the ability to integrate the hardware layer. Virtual management appliances running within the hypervisor overlooking the hyperconverged infrastructure help further this integration. These types of deployments can reduce data center footprints, improve IT economics, and optimize user experiences. Furthermore, those organizations looking to refresh or update their desktop situation should absolutely be looking at VDI and hyperconverged infrastructure as an option. Remember, there are big benefits around deploying VDI on hyperconverged infrastructure including:

    • Integrated VDI, convergence, and hypervisor management

    • Rapid-scale deployment of VMs and applications

    • Smaller data center footprint

    • Greater levels of application, desktop, and user densities

  • Creating new levels of scale for a business. If you’re a quickly growing organization that needs resources fast, hyperconverged infrastructure may be the way to go. This is especially the case if you’re already leveraging virtualization technologies. Mergers and acquisitions happen all the time. Organizations work hard to get their new divisions up and running quickly. Hyperconverged infrastructure is capable of delivering a vast amount of resources that are still tightly managed. Network, storage, compute, and virtualization can be implemented at a new site and can begin working for the company from day one. These fast deployments not only integrate with core systems, they allow a business to scale as needed. Start with a smaller number of users and grow from there very seamlessly.

  • Integrating automation, orchestration and analytics. Let’s use Nutanix as an example here. Nutanix provides an array of interfaces allowing for simple programmability, automation and reporting. These interfaces include REST APIs and Nutanix Command Line Interface (NCLI) for script automation. Core to the support of the presentation of analytic data are REST APIs that expose every capability and data point that is visible through the Prism UI, and allow for orchestration or automation tools to directly drive Nutanix actions. This enables tools, including VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) or Microsoft’s System Center and Windows Azure Pack, to easily create custom interfaces (graphical or otherwise) for Nutanix. Also, this means that third-party developers can create their own custom UIs and access Nutanix analytics data. Furthermore, core analytics information integrates with storage, VMs, workload performance, CPU utilization, and even user experiences to give administrators full insight into their environments.

  • Moving into cloud. Your hyperconverged infrastructure architecture needs to have the capability to interact and participate with public, private or hybrid cloud use cases. Many systems integrate via API into some of the biggest cloud environments to act as “natural” extensions of the data center. This include AWS, Azure, and other major cloud providers. For example, one of the most frequently use cases is the use of public clouds for long-term data retention for backup, disaster recovery and archival. The ability to seamlessly set up this feature with simple management of cloud resources is a great place where hyperconverged infrastructure can help.

  • Working with containers. Please don’t ignore container technologies as a passing technology trend. Containers are absolutely gaining traction and are now being integrating with hyperconverged infrastructure systems. Again, using Nutanix as an example, Docker packages applications and their dependencies into flexible and highly portable virtual containers. Hosting Docker containers in virtual machines (VMs) on a Nutanix system allows for container migration, persistent storage for both containers and local registries, and streamlined network and security configuration. The Nutanix Acropolis Distributed Storage Fabric (DSF) works with mixed workloads and can host traditional VMs alongside containers for a number of different types of use-cases.

  • Integrating core data center and network systems. Very recently, Cisco announced that they were rolling out a new line of hyperconverged infrastructure systems. Let’s assume that your environment is heavily invested in Cisco technologies and the management around Cisco platforms. To keep things unified and easily managed, you may very well want to consider deploying a Cisco HyperFlex solution. You can integrate the environment as a UCS domain, manage it through traditional means, and even integrate resources into UCS Director. Basically, you can create a completely unified Cisco architecture with traditional, CI and hyperconverged infrastructure Cisco technologies. This can absolutely simplify management requirements and speed up deployment of various workloads.

Moving forward, hyperconverged infrastructure systems will continue to make an impact in the modern data center. These technologies are changing the way we can integrate with our environment, the cloud, and even new technologies like containers. Still, make sure you do your research and know which hyperconverged infrastructure technology you’re deploying. Each hyperconverged infrastructure system is unique and has its benefits and drawbacks. For example, make sure your hyperconverged infrastructure system doesn’t only work with one hypervisor. A converged system that only supports a single hypervisor, such as VMware vSphere, unnecessarily locks an organization into a single vendor and associated polices, including licensing fees and migration complexities. Similarly, if you deploy an hyperconverged infrastructure solution which comes with in-line deduplication and compression enabled (and you can’t turn it off), you need to make sure the workloads you host on that infrastructure can work well in that kind of environment. Bottom line: when working with hyperconverged infrastructure, plan ahead to make the environment a truly powerful part of your data center.

About the Author(s)

Bill Kleyman

Bill Kleyman has more than 15 years of experience in enterprise technology. He also enjoys writing, blogging, and educating colleagues about tech. His published and referenced work can be found on Data Center Knowledge, AFCOM, ITPro Today, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot, and more.

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