The trend toward technology convergence has accelerated in the past few years, to the point where infrastructure is now available with all hardware and software integrated into a single solution, writes Jaco Erasmus, Dell enterprise division manager at Drive Control Corporation.
Supported by software-defined services, this new ‘hyper converged’ infrastructure delivers a software-centric architecture where all networks, storage and computing power can be deployed and managed through a single software layer. Hardware essentially becomes a commodity supporting a host of software-based services and solutions.
This offers a number of benefits, including faster provisioning time, improved agility and flexibility and simplified deployment. However, despite these benefits, converting to a hyper-converged infrastructure can be a costly exercise. It is therefore advisable to engage with an expert consultancy before any projects begin, to determine the most cost effective approach to maximise return on investment.
One of the biggest challenges currently faced by IT is the need to deliver essential business applications and services quickly, with a reduced total cost of ownership. However, the cost and complexity of traditional infrastructure such as data centres does not support this goal, and legacy infrastructure hinders flexibility. Cloud-based systems offer a solution to this dilemma, however for many businesses a public cloud offering is far from ideal, and private cloud solutions can prove to be too complex.
Hyper-converged infrastructure offers these organisations a different solution, providing next-generation data centre infrastructure with the agility and economic benefits of the cloud combined with the security and reliability of an on-premise solution. Essentially, hyper converged infrastructure brings together compute and storage capability into a single server unit, that can be deployed in scale-out clusters. Not only does this significantly reduce complexity and physical space required, it also offers a highly scalable architecture that is able to grow with a business to meet changing market needs.
Generally speaking, the biggest benefit of a hyper converged infrastructure is the ability to centrally manage all of the components of IT, which dramatically simplifies scaling and provisioning. However, there are several important considerations that must be taken into account before migrating to this type of solution.
Firstly, the entire infrastructure needs to be virtualised to leverage hyper convergence. If an organisation is unable to achieve this, or even virtualise the basics, then this approach will not be suitable. In addition, certain legacy applications do not run well in a virtualised environment and thus will not be able to be included in a hyper converged infrastructure. If these applications are core to the business, this is problematic.
Secondly, the cost implications can be significant. As hyper converged infrastructure is essentially appliance-based, it is typically necessary to do a complete ‘rip and replace’ of all legacy hardware. The underlying hardware and software on top of this must also be compatible with this turnkey solution.
Engaging with an expert consultancy service in this regard can be highly beneficial. A consultant will be able to examine your existing infrastructure to identify what is running, and also to understand what it is the business is trying to achieve with a converged infrastructure. This will then determine what existing architecture and hardware can be re-utilised, and what needs to be replaced. This method is a far more balanced approach to simply replacing everything, and will help to determine the most cost effective means to ensure maximum return on investment.
In addition, a consultant will be able to determine whether your business will fully benefit from the advantages of hyper converged infrastructure, by leveraging scale out capabilities and extra management layers. Ultimately, not all businesses will find hyper convergence to be a cost effective solution, however for the large enterprise with the need for scale out architecture and simplified management, it can deliver significant advantage. An expert consultant will help to ensure your business obtains the optimal solution to meet your needs now and into the future.