October 26th, 2016 by Guest Author
Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliances: Making Software-Defined Data Center Architecture Ubiquitous
Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is all the rage these days. Why? Because it is allowing CIOs to get out of the infrastructure business so they can focus on adding value to the core business. IT service used to be a component-level conversation about building solutions. But just as the underlying architecture of a smartphone is rarely on a consumer’s mind, the same is becoming true for the underlying elements of IT systems. The conversation is now centered around “How can I most efficiently deliver the needed service level?”
With hyper-converged infrastructure you can start very small, scale granularly and enjoy operational simplicity throughout the lifecycle. Because each HCI appliance consolidates servers, networking, storage and virtualization into a single unit, you can add needed capacity in real-time, easily and without disruption. That is highly attractive in today's fluid IT environment.
Rapid adoption of HCI has also been fueled by technological advances that mean HCI appliances come with enterprise-class capabilities like availability, data protection and system management built-in. Previously, these could only be satisfied by discrete, dedicated IT systems. Similar to server virtualization before it, software-defined storage has begun to decouple data management functions from purpose-built storage arrays. Together with denser CPU and storage technologies, software-defined capabilities can now address enterprise requirements while meeting consumer expectations through use of industry-standard components. And the emergence of high speed networks to connect all these components allows hyper-converged infrastructure to support deployments for all types of businesses.
Hyper-convergence is inherently scale-out, but you can do so incrementally. As your business grows, you will have increasing requirements on a hyper-converged solution that determine the choice of underlying components – for example, you may need more capacity but not more compute power. The good news is that flexibility for HCI appliances is ever-increasing. Storage can be hybrid or all-flash, for instance, and there are a multitude of other configuration choices – form factor, compute, memory, networking and even power supplies.
Beyond these components, the "hyper" in hyper-converged is all about the software. It’s the innovation behind integrating hardware with leading virtualization software, data protection, deployment and management tools that make HCI appliances the most cost-effective means to stand up a fully virtualized software-defined data center (SDDC) environment. Bonus points go to those who are authorized to provide you with a single point of support for everything – hardware and software – on your HCI appliance.
This translates to efficiency. It takes significantly less time to deploy an appliance than implement a build-your-own (BYO) solution, whether that's the initial configuration of an appliance or adding a new appliance to a cluster. We’re talking about several hours of saved time. For example, VxRail appliances automate hundreds of steps and reduce deployment and expansion time by more than seven hours, resulting in total cost of ownership that is 30 percent less than BYO configurations. [Source: Edison Group, VCE VxRail Appliance Cost and Maintenance Advantages, May 2016.]
Let's demonstrate that efficiency with real-world use cases.
Imagine you are driving to work. What do you do to pass the time? Listen to the radio. That local station uses HCI to control operations without worrying about their lack of a dedicated IT staff due to the ease of deployment, simplicity of management, and knowledge they could be supported with a single call, if needed.
On your way home from work, you decide to call the insurance company about your outstanding bill. That company operates 150 locations in 30 countries, but HCI appliances are helping call center operations ensure prompt, informed responses are given to customers, resulting in increased loyalty and satisfaction ratings, not to mention decreased costs. The fast time to deploy means quicker revenue recognition, and less time spent on weekly maintenance means more time spent on innovation – for instance, moving to chat or online customer management services.
During your call, you remember you need to schedule your next annual physical with your doctor. In healthcare, local clinic and outpatient facilities rely on HCI appliances so they can focus on what matters: delivering quality care to patients. Furthermore, appliances that have tight VMware integration allow your healthcare institution to leverage known standards and simply extend their VMware environment.
Finally, while planning your next vacation, you imagine watching elite professional sailing teams racing in the America's Cup. On board these high-tech craft, sensors feed data to HCI appliances, providing real-time analysis so the crew can make critical decisions mid-race.
The list of HCI implementations is already long, but the amazing thing is how fast it is growing and how ubiquitous the technology is becoming. It’s outpacing the converged infrastructure market overall. And there is no sign of it slowing down as the benefits realized from operational efficiencies, speed of deployments, ease of management, scalability and trusted support models continue to expand to encompass more and more use cases.
Megan McMichael, Principal VxRail Product Marketing Manager, Dell EMC & Wayne Pauley, Senior Director for Global Alliances, VMWare