In the IT industry numerous phrases and acronyms are thrown around by sales people, IT professionals and administrators. Often, when these phrases are mentioned, people nod and agree, but the reality is that they don’t have a clue as to what is being said and, to make matters worse, the person throwing these phrases around doesn’t really know what they mean either.
One such example is hyper convergence or a hyper converged infrastructure (HCI). The phrase as it stands is baffling to most. But, in this first of three articles we discuss hyper convergence, what it means, what benefits it has to a business and to users and where exactly it fits into a company’s current infrastructure.
So, What is Hyper-convergence?
Put simply, hyper convergence is a marketing term. It is defined as an IT framework that is designed to combine a company’s current storage, computing and networking assets into a single system. There is one goal in mind – to reduce the complexities associated with data in terms of compliance and security, all the while being able to grow with a company.
“Numerous hyper converged infrastructure platforms are available,” says Chris Larkins, business unit manager for Dell Enterprise at Tarsus Distribution.
“For instance Dell EMC’s wide HCI portfolio is designed to transform operations with turnkey integrated systems that accelerate IT outcomes and continue to leverage existing operating models while gaining HCI benefits through flexible, pre-validated building blocks or servers,” he adds.
“We have various solutions on offer. For example some are designed to enhance an organisation’s current VMware operations. We have also partnered with the likes of Microsoft to provide solutions that address wide and diverse workload needs. Our PowerEdge servers can come pre-configured with VMware vSAN for a faster deployment time and our PowerFlex software-defined storage platform offers high-performance storage resources for flexibility and scalability,” continues Larkins.
Although Dell EMC and various other hardware manufacturers have servers designed to address individual requirements, the main idea is that a company does not need these high-end devices in a hyper converged environment. The elements of a traditional data centre such as its storage, computing, networking and management resources, are pooled together to replace expensive, single purpose-built hardware. With a hyper converged infrastructure a company will decrease its data centre complexity and at the same time allow for an inexpensive increase in scalability.
What About the Converged Environment?
When comparing a hyper converged environment to a converged one, the main difference is:
In a hyper converged setup, the different resources inside the server are pooled together by the hypervisor or firmware, and then served up to virtual machines. The hypervisor dynamically assigns the resources as they are needed.
On the other hand a converged infrastructure involves a pre configured package of software and multiple hardware devices in a single system for simplified management. Furthermore in converged infrastructure environment the computing, storage and networking components are disparate and can be separated.
Now that we have a basic understanding of what a hyper convergence infrastructure is, how it fits into the grander computing scheme of things, and how it differs from other technologies, what are the benefits?
Firstly, the implementation of hyper convergence is the ability for a company to consolidate most of its infrastructure. Instead of having disparate systems from different vendors that are sometimes not compatible with each other, hyper convergence eliminates this. “A storage system bought from one vendor a few years ago may not be compatible with a newer and maybe more complex storage system,” comments Larkins.
But, we are still talking bits, bytes and gigabytes – the foundation of any hard disks, hard disk drives (HDD) or device that stores information. In a way, hyper convergence throws a blanket over this, pooling all of storage space together. This ultimately hides the different technologies and creates a software defined hardware setup, or a virtual hard drive, accessible to everyone regardless of the system they are working on. This is despite the fact that the storage devices are supplied by different vendors.
The same goes with a data centre’s computing power, networking setup and memory.
Secondly is scalability. These days it is just about impossible to predict how big a company will grow. So it makes sense to start with what you need in terms of data storage needs and adopt a ‘buy as you grow’ approach. Hyper convergence helps by allowing a company to buy one server to get started. When an additional one is needed they can simply buy the one that best suits their budgets and needs at the time and not have to worry about any compatibility issues. Plug it in and let hyper convergence do what it does best – simplify the data centre complexity.
Lastly is lessening the burden of the IT administrator. A traditional data centre comprises servers which connect through a network to desktop computers. These servers allow employees to access stored data and business applications. But, in order to scale up or upgrade their data storage, businesses need to purchase more hardware which requires additional administrators for maintenance. A hyper converged infrastructure reduces the amount of hardware needed as it is software driven. As previously mentioned, a range of resources are combined via software to create a main building block for servers.
So instead of having a Microsoft specialist for the Microsoft servers and a Linux guru for Linux servers plus multiple other administrators all with their individual specialties, there is one administrator to take care of it all. He is able to secure, administer and monitor the entire data centre through the hyper converged dashboard.
There are various other benefits to be gained by implementing a hyper converged infrastructure. Each of these will be identified and explained through our hyper convergence infrastructure series over the next month.