Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), software-defined data center (SDDC) and hybrid cloud have moved far beyond being IT buzz words as they represent real change in how IT and businesses are transforming today.
Enterprises are increasingly moving to hybrid cloud models, and HCI – now a mainstream way for organizations to simplify the deployment, management and scaling of IT infrastructures – has become the answer for many organizations for the on-premises infrastructure part of hybrid cloud.
Packaged in a compact, factory-integrated appliance or rack, HCI integrates compute, networking and storage capabilities in a single chassis and runs all data center functions as software on the hypervisor, rather than on dedicated equipment. The innovation lies in tightly integrating hardware and its management software with leading virtualization software, data protection, deployment, and management tools. These robust management and orchestration tools automate common IT tasks such as provisioning, resource allocation, and system monitoring, and offer an element of self-service.
HCI enables organizations to stand up complete data center infrastructure on-site, creating a self-contained cloud that is managed remotely. IT administrators can manage distributed data centers from a single location, without needing staff at remote locations.
Businesses adopting HCI experience an array of benefits that enable them to stay competitive.
Consolidation and modernization of data center technology lower operating expenses: SDDCs running on HCI enable IT departments to move from legacy hardware-based systems to private or hybrid cloud environments. As hardware ages out, it is consolidated and modernized with small racks of HCI replacing rooms full of mainframes or traditional server farms. Fewer machines mean less capital expense and a smaller IT department; fewer racks mean renting less space; less space means reduced power consumption; and, all of that means lower operating expenses, allowing resources to be invested in further innovation and new projects essential to the business.
Creation of a multitenant platform: Everyone needs access to some of the organization’s data, but almost no one needs access to all of it. However, this requires additional storage and compute capacity so that each entity has access to the files it needs without exposing sensitive data to which many should not have access. If pooled, this capacity could be put to good use elsewhere in the enterprise. The SDDC creates a multitenant platform with one pool of capacity that is shared by everyone, but with security protocols that restrict each user only to the data and applications they are authorized to access. With this, IT operations are optimized and wasted storage and compute capacity is eliminated.
Pay-as-you-grow scalability: To build scalability into a hardware-based data center usually means overprovisioning, creating idle capacity and wasted resources in case of greater need tomorrow. By deploying HCI appliances, companies can buy storage, network and compute resources based solely on current need. Extra capacity can be added quickly and easily, if and when there is actually a need, enabling for pay-as-you-grow spending.
Centralized management of distributed data centers: Companies with regional offices, large retail chains, and manufacturers with facilities around the globe all can benefit from HCI. With SDDCs powered by HCI appliances, IT departments can view all operations through a single pane of glass from a central location. Powerful management and orchestration software automate many common admin tasks, freeing up IT professionals for more important work. Automation combined with end-to-end visibility allows enterprises to maintain optimal data center operations, keeping systems running smoothly while responding rapidly to changing IT needs.
Deployment of a cloud in a box: It takes significantly less time to deploy an appliance than implement a build-your-own solution. HCI provides companies with the most efficient path to deployment because they are factory-engineered, -assembled and -tested, so there is no question of whether it will be cloud-ready straight out of the box. This maximizes time to value, and it makes implementation and lifecycle management easier and more efficient.
The new normal
Software-defined everything is rapidly becoming the new normal. HCI facilitates moving to SDDC architecture as gradually or as quickly as a company is willing to pursue the transition. And a SDDC running on HCI appliances delivers cost-reduction and efficiency benefits that immediately justify investment in the model – no matter how big or small the initial outlay.
Finding the right solution provider
Companies looking to implement HCI need to find a solution provider that offers:
Superior solutions: Performance and reliability matter as does the tight integration of compute, storage and networking capabilities. The closer the functions work together, the more effective the solution will be. Monitoring and automation are also critical.
Domain expertise: Any project involving the data center is mission critical, so find a solution provider with proven domain expertise. Distributed deployments can be costly, complex and confusing. The deployment itself should tie in seamlessly with existing operations.
The author is Director Sales, Converged Platform & Solutions Division, Dell EMC