Hyperconverged infrastructures in the white label model

vom 28.01.2021

21.01.2021 I by Henrik Hasenkamp

An own cloud requires system houses to make high investments in their data center. A white label solution is a cost-efficient alternative, but data centers must meet certain requirements.

Companies are moving to the cloud, system houses are going with them and becoming providers of cloud services. This new business model expands the existing market for server and web hosting and managed services. But the setup requires the expansion of the data center, a suitable software stack and the know-how to operate and administer it.

White label solutions are well suited for system houses and IT service providers. Here, the reseller uses the resources and know-how of a cloud provider. There are two possible variants: First, they make the provider's cloud services available under their own brand - but use the cloud provider's data center capacities or use their own data center with the provider's cloud stack.

The stack becomes the »operating system« of the data center and supplies the system houses' customers with cloud services. However, for the business model to work for resellers, a different type of infrastructure is required, such as is common for web or SAP hosting.

The basic operating principle of a cloud is the virtualization of all IT resources. They are distributed by management software to the respective active users. This form of data center operation is also known as hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI).

HCI brings about comprehensive virtualization

HCI solutions are based on a fully virtualized, software-centric IT architecture. The individual components such as processors, storage and networks are brought together in an appliance, a combination of hardware and software. The appropriate software provides corresponding cloud services on this basis. This consists of the following components:

  • Hypervisor:
    A virtualization software layer that abstracts from the underlying hardware. The hypervisor consolidates all resources into a single, like environment and dynamically distributes provisioned resources as needed.
  • Software-Defined Storage (SDS)
    virtualizes data storage so that it can be managed and provisioned independently of hardware. The software creates a virtual storage pool and automatically distributes data to one or more servers with spare capacity.
  • Software-Defined Networking (SDN):
    This form of virtualization separates the control of the network (control plane) from the hardware used to route data packets (data plane). The hardware is dynamically assigned network functions and changes in the network occur in near real time.
  • Software
    For centralized monitoring and control.
  • Extensions:
    HCI is capable of integrating traditional server infrastructures, existing legacy IT and cloud services into a virtual architecture.

An important advantage: HCI uses standard »off-the-shelf« servers, typically running the Linux operating system. Proprietary hardware such as storage area networks (SANs) are not necessary. Instead, HCI appliances use so-called direct attached storage (DAS), i.e. the hard disks of the servers. A crucial component, however, is the management software. It ensures that all IT resources can be used flexibly and added dynamically. At the same time, it allows users to access virtual servers and storage as well as other virtual resources.

Becoming a Cloud Provider with Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Such an HCI appliance resembles a cloud service. More precisely, a public cloud offering can also be understood as the user interface of a powerful hyperconverged infrastructure. The prerequisite for this is a cloud stack. This gives users all the capabilities of the public cloud as well as interfaces to other cloud offerings and legacy applications.

By means of such an HCI appliance, the Swiss provider hosttech GmbH, for example, provides its customers with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform Services (PaaS), i.e. classic cloud services. Basically, this is a »cloud as a managed service«. Both the stack and the customers are managed by the provider within the white label solution. The user interface not only allows easy use of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) by the end customers, but also provides the provider with extensive functions in networking by means of software-defined networking.

Even in times of peak loads, there are no bottlenecks because the provider's resources are also available. An example: An online retailer uses the infrastructure from the cloud, but books additional servers in the run-up to Christmas or on days like Black Friday. Thanks to the HCI infrastructure and the connection to the cloud provider, the number of servers and storage areas that can be used is no longer limited by the hardware in the company's own data center. The usage-based pay-as-you-go billing makes this model additionally attractive.

The investment in a hyperconverged cloud architecture is worthwhile: Digital workstations with virtual desktops or any other application scenarios can be implemented particularly quickly and expanded later. The fast expandability also allows the use in agile software development including DevOps, the operation of applications for Big Data or the Internet of Things (IoT). Overall, the complexity of IT infrastructures is reduced. Applications of all kinds can be put into operation faster and scale better - an opportunity for system houses in the cloud market.

The original article in german can be found here.

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