By Mark Edwards, director and CTO at Intuate Group
JOHANNESBURG – June 09, 2015 – Over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of change within the technology industry, and if you have been in the market to refresh your storage or server platforms more recently, you will have almost certainly run across the term “hyperconverged systems”. But what are they? And how do how do they differ from traditional infrastructure systems?
Converged systems were the natural progression from traditional, siloed IT infrastructure, combining storage, servers and network infrastructure components as a pre-engineered solution. Hyperconverged systems however, take this concept of convergence to the next level. The main difference is that, while converged systems are separate components engineered to work well together, hyperconverged systems are modular data centre systems that embrace cloud principles and economics and are designed to scale out by adding additional modules.
Hyperconverged infrastructure consolidates server compute, storage, network switch, hypervisor, data protection, data efficiency, global management, and other enterprise functionality on commodity x86 building blocks. The benefits of this approach are the simplification of IT, an increase in efficiency, seamless scalability, improved agility, and reduced costs.
Essentially, hyperconvergence enables “cloudlike” economics and scale, without compromising the performance, reliability, and availability you expect in your own data centre. It is the ultimate in an overall trend of convergence that has hit the market in recent years and is intended to bring simplicity to increasingly complex data centres and provides significant benefits.
According to technology veteran and prolific IT author, Scott D. Lowe, there are at least ten ways that hyperconvergence solves those challenges that are inherent in today’s virtualised data centres.
Hyperconvergence is the embodiment of the software-defined data centre (SDDC). Given its software-based nature, it provides the flexibility required to meet current and future business needs without having to remove and replace infrastructure components. Additionally, as vendors add new features in updated software releases, customers can gain the benefits of those features immediately, without having to replace hardware.
Use of commodity x86 hardware
Commodity hardware is the use of large numbers of already-available computing components for parallel computing, to get the greatest amount of useful computation at a low cost. With hyperconvergance, the software layer is designed to accommodate the fact that hardware will eventually fail. Customers get the benefit of these failure avoidance/ availability options without having to break the bank to get the hardware.
Centralised systems and management
When it comes to hyperconvergence, all components are combined in a single shared resource pool with hypervisor technology. A hypervisor or virtual machine monitor (VMM) is a piece of computer software, firmware or hardware that creates and runs virtual machines. The hypervisor presents the guest operating systems with a virtual operating platform and manages the execution of the guest operating systems. This simple design enables IT to manage aggregated resources as a single system.
Mass centralisation and integration also ease the burden of resource management – no matter where the physical resources happen to be, hyperconverged systems handle them as though they were all sitting next to one another. Resources spread across multiple physical data centres are managed from a single, centralised interface, along with all system and data management functions.
A company’s lack of agility, or the inability of its IT infrastructure to quickly incorporate a new business process that would give it a competitive edge, can be costly. Hyperconverged infrastructure enables IT to achieve positive outcomes much faster.
Part of being agile is being able to move workloads as necessary. With hyperconverged infrastructure, all resources in all physical data centres reside under a single administrative umbrella. Moving workloads in a hyperconverged environment is simple; and no more pertinent than when a solution enables consistent deduplication as a core part of its offering, given that reduced data is far easier to work with and helps get things done faster.
Efficiency and scalability
Hyperconvergence can be defined as a scalable “building block” approach that expands by adding additional units to meet business demands. Unlike integrated systems products, which often require large investments, hyperconverged solutions have a much smaller investment footprint. This also results in a far more efficient use of resources; as new resources are required, it is easy to add nodes to a hyperconverged infrastructure.
Hyperconverged systems have a low cost of entry compared with their integrated system counterparts and legacy infrastructure.
Most boardrooms today are asking companies to do more with less. One of the fastest ways to improve efficiency (and reduce costs) is to automate routine operations as much as possible. Until now, many legacy IT architectures have been so varied and complex that automation has been a pipe dream. SDDC brings the dream one step closer to reality and goes hand in hand with hyperconvergence.
Also, IT does not need to worry about creating automated structures with hardware from different manufacturers or product lines, as everything is encapsulated in a single environment.
Focus on VMs
Hyperconverged infrastructure options use virtual machines as the most basic construct of the environment. As a result, policy in the hyperconverged environment also revolves around VMs, as do all the management options available in the system, such as data protection policies, which are often defined in third-party tools in legacy environments. With hyperconvergence, integrated data protection policies and control happen right at VM level.
Using Nutanix as an example, the storage logic controller, which normally is part of SAN hardware, becomes a software service attached to each VM at the hypervisor level. The software defined storage takes all of the local storage across the cluster and configures it as a single storage pool. Data that needs to be kept local for the fastest response could be stored locally, while data that is used less frequently can be stored on one of the servers that might have spare capacity.
The I/O blender effect is a phenomenon in virtualised environments that degrades storage performance. The I/O blender effect occurs when multiple virtual machines (VMs) all send their input/output (I/O) streams to a hypervisor for processing. Hyperconvergence enables organisations to deploy many kinds of applications in a single shared resource pool without worrying about this because it includes multiple kinds of storage — both solid-state storage and spinning-disk — in each appliance there’s plenty of storage to go around.
Hyperconverged infrastructure’s blend of storage also enables systems to handle both random and sequential workloads with ease.
There’s no doubt that data protection has become one of the top concerns of today’s businesses. In a hyperconverged environment, however, backup, recovery, and disaster recovery are built in. They’re part of the infrastructure, not third-party afterthoughts to be integrated.
Ok, so one more point. Of course all of this work to increase our data centres’ efficiency is good for the planet. While many companies are building new so-called “earth-friendly” data centres, perhaps the greenest data centre is the one you never built because you did not need to…
About Intuate Group
Intuate Group is a privately owned, broad based IT company that focuses on providing professional, integrated technology and people resources solutions. Its services encompass the provision of state-of-the-art contact centre solutions using Noble Technology, the supply and implementation of best-of-breed IT solutions, as well as IT strategy and consulting. The company is also a partner of choice for business intelligence, project management, the management and support of IT infrastructure – specifically storage and server consolidation – and the provision of resources.
For more information, please visit www.intuategroup.com.
Intuate Group: Mark Edwards, 011 302-1200, email@example.com