What is hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI)
Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is an innovative virtualised solution that combines the data centre infrastructure components of storage, compute and networking, into a single easy-to-manage platform. HCI is all about simplifying the data centre experience and, given the well-accepted benefits, it is unsurprising to see that the HCI market is predicted to grow at a rate of around 40% year-on-year to become an $18 billion market by 2023.
What are the benefits of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) over traditional infrastructure?
Organisations with mission critical applications require “always on” or highly available infrastructure to meet the expectations of the business and customers. Poor performance and unplanned IT downtime carry significant costs and the risk of missing important customer deadlines. HCI enables business to run mission critical applications without the complexity and cost of traditional infrastructure.
Traditionally, such infrastructure consisted of many expensive individual components, consisting of physical servers, shared storage (SANs) and storage networks from a mix of different vendors. These components were essentially connected together to form a high availability solution. However, multivendor components were not optimised to work together as a single solution. This created weaknesses and inefficiencies in the overall system as a result, such as:
Complex and temperamental configuration of each individual component.
A difficult to maintain and manage overall system.
An increased total cost of ownership as a result of multiple components and vendors.
Unpredictable results across the entire solution when firmware upgrades or modifications are made to one component - especially troublesome in a mission critical environment.
As HCI flattens the stack of individual infrastructure components into a single device, the risk of failure between components is minimised and all components are optimised to work together in an appliance type scenario.
Scalability and business continuity
Hyper-converged infrastructure is also ideally suited to growing companies who require the ability to scale. HCI enables businesses to easily add future servers and is optimised to deliver significant performance improvements (compared to traditional infrastructure) with solid state storage, data compression and deduplication built in.
Another key feature of HCI is its ability to provide data protection and recovery, whereby snapshots of individual servers can be captured and stored for quick recovery. This allows businesses to recover files and systems in a matter of seconds and is a transformative feature in an environment where the ability to quickly restore a corrupted VM is essential.
The overall cost of hyper-converged infrastructure, including maintenance, is significantly lower than traditional infrastructure. Using a scale-up or scale-out architecture enabled by HCI drastically reduces capital expenditure costs for businesses. This has made high availability possible for businesses that previously couldn’t afford to implement the required traditional infrastructure. Given the benefits and with the option of spreading the cost over longer term periods, investment in HCI can be easily justified.