The world is in a constant state of change, which compels businesses to adapt. To remain competitive, relevant, and innovative, businesses must undertake transformational initiatives. However, the success of any innovation depends significantly on the capability of its IT infrastructure to cope for the organization to survive. To succeed in this dynamic market, your IT needs to accommodate changing business models, power innovative applications, and provide security. Also, it must be cost-effective and tightly integrated with other technical components.
Such an IT environment is made possible through Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI). HCI ensures your IT infrastructure performs seamlessly while reducing operational costs and complexity. It also frees you from vendor lock-ins, making your IT agile and adaptable.
Definition of hyper-converged infrastructure
HCI is the practice of building a unified, software-enabled platform that enables organizations to manage resources efficiently. This is achieved by tightly integrating the platform’s servers, storage, and networking components. Organizations gain control over the entire IT infrastructure through an on-premises component added to the platform.
Hyper-converged infrastructure essentially virtualizes data for seamless storage, combining virtualization, computation, and networking. You can manage the entire cloud ecosystem through an x86 hardware toolset. It allows for streamlined data management by unifying data from multiple sources into a single view.
SAN to HCI evolution
For decades, data centers have been based on SAN (Storage Area Network), i.e., an accessible network of storage devices with every machine on the system having access to the storage. However, with emerging technologies and virtualization gaining popularity, implementing SAN proved challenging due to sophisticated IT needs. The complexity and lack of scalability placed the burden on IT administrators to manage infrastructure through a series of repetitive tasks.
With traditional infrastructure’s limitations becoming too big a challenge to ignore, HCI was conceptualized. Today, it offers reliability, scalability, and operational excellence for organizations to stay competitive.
HCI for IT storage management & operations
Storage is a key component within the hyper-converged infrastructure. It provides an automated software-defined platform to manage repetitive tasks such as deploying, upgrading, and managing storage resources, enabling seamless operations.
In hyper-converged storage, traditional hardware is replaced with pools of storage using virtualized storage controllers. These resources in the node can be shared across the nodes in a cluster, essentially building a large storage pool. This approach allows you to scale the platform without interruptions by adding virtual resources to the controllers. To scale down, you need to add physical nodes. Since scalability with hyper-converged storage occurs in increments, you can acquire storage as needed, avoiding large storage investments regardless of the use.
Hyper-converged storage allows IT operators to manage resources easily while reducing the costs of owning storage. Unlike typical converged storage, where you get resources built into the hardware, hyper-converged storage allows pooling storage resources.
Advantages of hyper-converged storage
With data produced increasing exponentially every year, storage management becomes critical to ensure companies leverage the full potential of their data. However, the data silos formed because of the traditional and legacy storage solutions hamper visibility and control over data. Hyper-converged storage addresses that challenge by pooling all the resources into a single large pool.
Some of its key advantages are listed below:
Greater flexibility for IT admins:
By automating routine tasks, you can free up your IT resources to focus on strategic operations instead of worrying about infrastructure management. It boosts their productivity and improves your economics.
Reduced IT storage costs:
Creating a dynamically scalable storage cluster can reduce storage costs. Designing your automated solutions on industry-standard hardware devices enables better performance at lower operating costs.
Enhanced data security:
With HCI platforms providing built-in security features like encryption and role-based access control, you don’t have to use a third-party encryption or security tool.
Decreased unplanned downtime:
Hyper-converged storage improves application development by reducing unplanned downtime and enabling better agility. It also cuts down the remediation time.
Virtualization with HCI implementation
HCI emerged as a valuable concept to power ROBO (Remote Or Branch Offices) and VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) to connect remote workers to your enterprise ecosystem. Virtualization is crucial, as it allows multiple applications and services to run on a single hardware platform, catering to their individual resource needs.
The virtualization layer combines hypervisor software and VMs (Virtual Machines) that deliver underlying hardware as abstract services. It forms an interface between different HCI components. These components must ensure that the VMs are well-provisioned with resources to run the workloads they support. This approach makes IT management very simple, and your team can manage storage and other resources even if they lack expertise in the underlying technologies and platforms.
IT teams can assume full control of resource management, VM monitoring, and performance optimization from a centralized portal. With virtualization, you can implement replication, backups, and load balancing to ensure quality of service. Further, admins can move VMs across data centers from one place to another. Most IT teams optimize performance to avoid downtime or outages by automating the VM migrations during workload fluctuations, peak traffic hours, or maintenance schedules.
Building applications with minimal downtime
As cloud services gain global adoption, organizations are deploying their IT applications in the cloud. While flexible, cloud computing can be costly, complex to manage, lead to siloed data, and demand a niche skill set. HCI addresses these challenges head-on. By virtualizing storage resources and distributing them across cluster nodes, HCI allows you to create a large resource pool. This centralizes your entire data for better visibility and easy access. Also, with virtualization, you can ensure that the workloads are never short of resources, ensuring zero downtime.
HCI simplifies data migration between data centers, cloud environments, on-premises setups, and public clouds without complicating IT operations.