30.07.2020 I by Henrik Hasenkamp
HCIs are becoming increasingly popular due to their efficiency and flexibility. Those who do not want to provide hyper-convergent infrastructure themselves can fall back on IaaS offerings.
Digital progress not only leads to new opportunities for companies, but also to ever greater demands on their digital products and services. In order to keep up with the international competition, companies must constantly develop further. To do so, they need a mature and comprehensive infrastructure that allows them to configure and combine servers, network and storage of systems and devices.
Conventional convergent infrastructures reach their limits here. By virtualizing the IT infrastructure into a complete appliance consisting of hardware and software, companies can adapt their systems more flexibly to changing customer requirements. Such systems ensure maximum scalability, efficient management and lower operating costs.
The central feature of a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is that the software for controlling the devices is no longer directly connected to these devices, but is moved to a superordinate layer and assigned to the entire IT infrastructure. The hardware itself no longer requires its own operating systems and is reduced to its actual functions. A hypervisor controls the individual hardware units across the board.
The hypervisor continuously reallocates the required resources of computing power, main memory and storage to the guest VMs from a pool. It also manages the scheduling of the individual resources. Due to its central importance, the choice of hypervisor is one of the most important decisions when switching to an HCI.
Quickly deployable HCI systems
HCI systems are becoming increasingly popular due to their flexibility and the automatic and fast provision of processor, memory and RAM capacities. They often host virtual desktops (virtual desktop infrastructure, VDI), but are also suitable for DevOps, container applications, and other high performance applications.
If a company intends to deploy a hyper-convergent infrastructure, a number of questions must first be answered. These include which hypervisor fits the needs of the enterprise and whether the HCI system chosen is appropriate for the size of the enterprise. A combination of convergent and hyper-convergent infrastructure is also possible, as data can be migrated between the two systems.
As a pre-configured software appliance within an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) approach, an HCI is particularly quick to deploy. The choice of software is based on the specific needs of the company. For example, when HCI is deployed in midsize companies, a workload may require a larger data center at short notice. Depending on the provider, a hyper-convergent infrastructure can be quickly implemented with a pre-installed hypervisor without the need for the company's own IT department to be well versed in the subject.
Companies that want to set up an HCI system on their own, on the other hand, usually need additional, specialized employees who have a broad range of knowledge about the various aspects and requirements of a hyper-convergent IT environment. Especially medium-sized companies usually do not have this know-how. With an IaaS model, they can outsource the administration and thus operate an HCI or try it out temporarily. Even the running costs remain calculable through individual offers and adapted to the needs of the company.
The advantages in practice
The interest in hyper-convergent structures is easily explained by the numerous advantages. One of them is the automatic distribution of resources. For example, if an action requires more memory than is allocated to it, the hypervisor can redirect the data flow to free memory. "In particular medium-sized companies usually do not have the know-how to set up an HCI on their own. With an IaaS model, they can outsource the administration and thus operate an HCI, or perhaps just try it out", says Henrik Hasenkamp from gridscale.
This principle also leads to increased availability and data security. In the event of a defective storage unit, data is stored elsewhere or a backup is performed. A disaster recovery system set up via hyper-convergence protects against data loss and helps to restore data. Thanks to the central definition and enforcement of global security policies, the infrastructure is reliably protected against external attacks.
The cost issue is a decisive aspect, especially for smaller companies. Here, too, there is an advantage, because the hyper-convergent infrastructure is characterized by comparatively high cost efficiency. Since the focus on hardware is no longer necessary with an HCI system, common standard servers can be used and, because of the decoupling of hardware and software, the company is not tied to a special provider, which further promotes the use of IaaS.
Streamline IT and accelerate processes
As an overall appliance, hyper-convergent infrastructures can help to accelerate services and streamline the entire IT. With the support of an experienced IT department, the transition can be easily implemented.
For small and medium-sized companies with limited resources, HCI systems are alternatively available as Infrastructure as a Service. This is also a cost-effective and quickly available method for checking whether and in what form a hyper-convergent infrastructure is suitable for use in your own company.
The original article in german can be found here.