Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) solutions abound in IT these days. They’re easy to set up and run, more powerful than ever and highly flexible, making them a popular choice for supporting a wide range of individual applications. And in many companies that’s how HCIs have been implemented, to address problems one at a time, most notably VDI and remote office computing. But hyperconverged infrastructures can do so much more. They can go beyond a point solution for supporting a single application and provide a platform for many different use cases.
What is a Platform?
In IT, a platform is a solution that enables or supports other products, typically software programs. It can be proprietary, where the vendor writes all the applications, but is more valuable if it’s based on standards, so it can run software developed by other companies. Operating systems are platforms because they run a variety of software programs, but hypervisors are an even better example because they can support applications written in any OS. They have transformed the platform discussion from applications or programs to “workload”.
One of the things that makes a hypervisor a good platform is the ability to support applications running on multiple OSs, and to move them between physical hosts. This can be for DR purposes, for maintenance flexibility or just consolidation. In that way we can say the platform is “extensible”, it spans multiple compute environments.
Nice definition, but who cares?
HCIs take the platform discussion a step further by providing the hardware to run the hypervisor on, and the storage to support it. And they take that notion of extensible and make it easily apply to physical locations. They enable you to extend the virtualization environment to multiple sites and to support the migration VMs between those locations. They can also extend the platform into the cloud, providing the same VM mobility between a local data center and the public cloud.
If you’re looking for a product to run a specific application or a compute environment in a few branch offices an HCI is a good choice. But what if you need all of these things, and more?
An HCI Platform
What if you need a target for storing backups or archiving tier 2 data? And what if you also need a DR solution that was easy to implement, at a remote site or in the cloud? How about an infrastructure that can run multiple hypervisors – and containers, or provide storage to support non-virtualized workloads? Or what if in addition to supporting the server virtualization environment you needed a NAS system for other hosts or home directories? Hyperconverged systems can do all these things.
Hyperconverged Infrastructures can do more than support virtualization projects today. Many companies need the flexibility and versatility that HCI technology can bring to support their compute requirements tomorrow – when they’re not sure exactly what those requirements will be. They may need to support different workloads, different hypervisors or different locations. An HCI platform can do that with the same infrastructure.
Update on HCI in the Enterprise
While the use of hyperconverged infrastructures as more than a point solution has been limited to smaller companies, some enterprises are starting to see the value in HCIs as a platform. In the Evaluator Group Study “Hyperconverged Infrastructures in the Enterprise” we found large companies in multiple industries actively evaluating (and deploying) HCIs for tier-one, production use cases. They see the changes coming and are looking to this technology as an alternative to traditional IT infrastructures. For more information, download the Report.
Many products have long lists of features that sound the same but work very differently. It’s important to think outside of the checkbox of similar-sounding features and understand how technologies and products differ.