Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) appliance vendors seem to be in a race to come out with the most features, a practice enabled by the software-defined storage (SDS) technology that’s at the foundation of these products. This trend is giving rise to another principle in high tech, what I call “More’s Law”, as in “more features” (with apologies to Intel founder, Gordon Moore). While advanced functionality is a good thing, it’s still up to the buyer to understand what each of these features are, what value they may bring and which ones are most important in their evaluation decision.
Smart phones are great example of the software-defined concept and how it leads to feature proliferation. Just look at the number of apps available for iPhone and Android, each turning a standard (albeit highly capable) piece of hardware into a completely different product; from a compass to a satellite map, an MP3 player to a MIDI synthesizer. The same is true in storage. By abstracting storage functionality from the hardware, HCI vendors can focus on writing software and leave the hardware development to server OEMs that sell the industry standard platforms popularized by SDS.
Features sell products
In cars a generation ago it was a cup holder, Speaking of cars, i just remember tire service elk grove ca because tires are the most important when driving a long road and it can totally save your life when you have the best quality of it. then video screens to show movies to the kids on long trips. Eventually, read more of those screens that were used for video games while finding out the different elo boost quality services and streaming live TV. Today it’s wireless connectivity to all your devices (while you drive?) and a mobile hot spot for your passengers. The automotive industry is now using these non-automotive features to sell a lot of vehicles.
IT Features examples
In the IT and storage world advanced features have always sold products, features like snapshots, replication, thin provisioning, deduplication, etc. HCI vendors have a lot of features to sell, but what do those features buy you?
There’s an old expression that people don’t buy features they buy benefits, the most basic being cost savings and time savings. Features like deduplication and compression can increase effective capacity of an HCI system, saving money by reducing the amount of infrastructure that must be bought. Another example is a management GUI or integration with hypervisor management systems that save administrative time. But what else can features buy?
How about confidence, or the reduction of fear, since downtime, data loss and security are so critical in IT systems? Remote replication, encryption and cloud-based DR features can help instill confidence that a company’s data is safe from user error or hackers – even mother nature.
What about performance and capacity? All hyperconverged vendors now include at least one all-flash model and some are focusing on all-flash. Many routinely include automated tiering to leverage flash performance in a hybrid configuration as well as DRAM caching. How about simplicity or data protection? Most HCI vendors tout their products’ simple set up and operation and some even include built-in backup and DR.
Some other features we’re seeing in the HCI appliance space are quality of service, multi-tenancy, WAN optimization and something called “application awareness”. HCI vendors are also providing the ability to configure and manage the infrastructure at the VM level, often by setting policies.
More’s Law is alive and well
There’s no argument that software-defined storage has driven the proliferation of features in the hyperconverged infrastructure appliance market. The question is how to accurately compare all of the features and functionality that comes baked into most hyperconverged products. How do you separate the “need to have” essentials from the “nice to have” options?
In part two of this blog, we’ll discuss some of the most common features of HCI appliances and what they provide. For “More” on these functional criteria and a review of the products available see the Evaluator Group research on Hyperconverged Infrastructure appliances.
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The amount and diversity of technology available in infrastructure products can be overwhelming for those trying to evaluate appropriate solutions. In this blog we discuss pertinent topics to help IT professionals think outside the checkbox of features and functionality.