16.09.2020 | Author / Editor: Henrik Hasenkamp / Sarah Böttcher
Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) is expected to be the next step in the evolution of enterprise IT departments. The promise: The possibility of building your own software-based data center according to cloud paradigms.
Typically, the various aspects of an IT infrastructure are independent areas. Servers for data processing, storage for storage, and a network to connect both components for end use at the desktop or via mobile devices. Separate administration and configuration is therefore comparatively complex and requires specialized IT knowledge. As these components are increasingly combined, a collaborative, converged infrastructure is created. However, the demands are increasingly exceeding the possible performance of convergent infrastructures.
Everything combined in one solution
What is needed is a technology that can meet ever-increasing demands while remaining flexible, adaptable and easy to manage. One possible solution is to be offered by hyperconvergence. Where previously individual components had to be controlled separately, Hyperconverged Infrastructures (HCI) manages all systems via an additional software layer.
The principle behind this is virtualization: hypervisor software serves to represent the entire IT infrastructure in a virtual environment, which means that not every server needs its own hardware unit. Between the different virtual environments, available resources can then be accessed flexibly and as needed - regardless of which hardware system they are located on.
The manual coupling of hardware and software is therefore no longer absolutely necessary. Hardware in operation no longer needs its own operating system and is reduced to its original functionality. The hypervisor has access to all resources and assigns them automatically and according to workload. The system thus always uses capacities as efficiently as possible and can prevent resource bottlenecks.
Weighing up integration in your own company
Whether a hyperconverged infrastructure is the right choice depends on various factors. After all, even though the systems offer a variety of advantages, they are not equally suitable for every purpose. This type of infrastructure is perfect when a data center needs to be up and running quickly for predictable workloads. If the hyperconverged infrastructure is already preconfigured by the provider, it can be implemented in just a few minutes. However, this rapid deployment requires compromises: individual customization options usually fall by the wayside. When considering investments, it is therefore advisable to consider not only the current situation but also future plans and strategies for IT operations. Will the requirements in the company increase significantly in the future? Will the scope, dynamics or character of workloads change significantly in the next few years? Then other options from the cloud may be a better alternative.
Advantages and challenges
One of the advantages of hyperconvergence is the potential for scaling and expansion. The resource pool can be supplemented and upgraded comparatively easily. The scaling process runs automatically in an HCI architecture and the hypervisor can automatically make use of new resources. However, companies must be aware from the outset that hyperconverged structures offer only linear scaling possibilities. The responsible administrators therefore need an overview of the entire application in order to be able to plan scaling sensibly.
Decision-makers must also consider the size of the company. Medium-sized companies, start-ups or those who are just starting to build up an IT department are well advised to use HCI systems. Because a new perspective and holistic approach to administration also change the demands on the IT team. Previously, the relevant specialist personnel concentrated on either storage, network or server activities. HCI systems require generalist IT staff who can handle the entire virtualized infrastructure and have an understanding of the workloads of the business unit in question. Overall, this reduces the number of employees required and cuts personnel costs. In addition, an HCI infrastructure often also lays the technological foundation for hybrid operating scenarios from public and private cloud. Depending on the respective workload, individual deployment can thus be carried out both on the company's own infrastructure and with a public cloud provider. For larger companies, however, which already have a traditional IT department, established processes and more complex data center infrastructures, switching to an HCI architecture involves more effort.
The original article in german can be found here.