Tag Archives: data center

Is Hyperconvergence the Private Cloud You Need?

If you are an IT professional, you are most likely familiar with at least the term “hyperconvergence” or “hyperconverged infrastructure”. You are also undoubtedly aware of cloud technology and some of the options for public, private, and hybrid cloud.  Still, this discussion merits a brief review of private cloud before delving into how hyperconvergence fits into the picture.

What is a Private Cloud?

The basic premise behind cloud technology is an abstraction of the management of VMs from the underlying hardware infrastructure. In a public cloud, the infrastructure is owned and hosted by someone else, making it completely transparent. In a private cloud, you own the infrastructure and still need to manage it, but the cloud management layer simplifies day-to-day operation of VMs compared to traditional virtualization.

Traditional virtualization is complicated by managing hypervisors running on individual virtual hosts and managing storage across hosts. When managing a single virtual host, VM creation and management is fairly simple. In a private cloud, you still have that underlying infrastructure of multiple hosts, hypervisors, and storage, but the cloud layer provides the same simple management experience of a single host but spread across the whole data center infrastructure.

Many organizations who are thinking of implementing private cloud are also thinking of implementing public cloud, creating a hybrid cloud consisting of both public and privately hosted resources.  Public cloud offers added benefits for pay-per-use elasticity for seasonal business demands and cloud-based applications for productivity.

Why Not Put Everything in Public Cloud?

Many organizations have sensitive data that they prefer to keep onsite or are required to do so by regulation. Maintaining data onsite can provide greater control and security than keeping it in the hands of a third party. For these organizations, private cloud is preferable to public cloud.

Some organizations require continuous data access for business operations and prefer not to risk interruption due to internet connectivity issues. Maintaining systems and data onsite allows these organizations to have more control over their business operations and maintain productivity. For these organizations, private cloud is preferable to public cloud.

Some organizations prefer the Capex model of private cloud vs. the Opex model of public cloud.  When done well, owning and managing infrastructure can be less expensive than paying someone else for hosting. The costs can be more predictable for onsite implementation, making it easier to budget. Private cloud is preferable for these organizations.

How does Hyperconvergence Fit as a Private Cloud?

For all intents and purposes, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) offers the same or better experience as a traditional private cloud. You could even go so far as to say it is the next generation of private cloud because it improves on some of the shortcomings of traditional private clouds. The simplicity of managing VMs in HCI is the same as traditional private clouds and brings an even simpler approach to managing the underlying hardware.

HCI is a way of combining the elements of traditional virtualization (servers, storage, and hypervisor) into a single appliance-based solution. With traditional virtualization, you were tasked with integrating these elements from multiple vendors into to working infrastructure and dealing with any incompatibilities and managing with multiple console, etc. HCI is a virtualization solution that has all of these elements pre-integrated into more or less a turnkey appliance. There should be no need to configure any storage, configure any hypervisor installs on host servers, or manage through more than a single interface.

Not all HCI vendors are equal and some rely on third party hypervisors so there are still elements of multi-vendor management, but true HCI solutions own the whole hardware and virtualization stack, providing the same experience as a private cloud. Users are able to focus on creating and managing VMs rather than worrying about the underlying infrastructure.

With the appliance-based approached, hyperconvergence is even easier to scale out than traditional private clouds or even the cloud-in-a-box solutions that also provide some levels of pre-integration. HCI scalability should be as easy as plugging in a new appliance node to a network and telling it to join an existing HCI cluster of appliance nodes.

HCI is generally more accessible and affordable than traditional private clouds or cloud-in-a-box solutions because it can start and then scale out from very small implementations without any added complexity. Small to midmarket organizations who experienced sticker shock at the acquisition and implementation costs of private clouds will likely find the costs and cost benefits of HCI much more appealing.  

Summary

Private cloud is a great idea for any organization whose goals include the control and security of onsite infrastructure and simplicity of day-to-day VM management. These organizations should be looking to hyperconverged infrastructure as a private cloud option to achieve those goals vs traditional private cloud or cloud-in-a-box options.

IT Infrastructure: Deploy. Integrate. Repeat.

Have you ever wondered if you are stuck in an IT infrastructure loop, continuously deploying the same types of components and integrating them into an overall infrastructure architecture? Servers for CPU and RAM, storage appliances, hypervisor software, and disaster recovery software/appliances are just some of the different components that you’ve put together from different vendors to create your IT infrastructure.mobius

This model of infrastructure design, combining components from different vendors, has been around for at least a couple decades. Virtualization has reduced the hardware footprint but it added one more component, the hypervisor, to the overall mix. As these component technologies like compute and storage have evolved within the rise of virtualization, they have been modified to function but have not necessarily been optimized for efficiency.

Take storage for example.  SANs were an obvious fit for virtualization early on. However, layers of inefficient storage protocols and virtual storage appliances that combined the SAN with virtualization were not efficient. If not for SSD storage, the performance of these systems would be unacceptable at best. But IT continues to implement these architectures because it has been done this way for so long, regardless of the inherent inefficiencies. Luckily, the next generation of infrastructure has arrived in the form of hyperconvergence to break this routine.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) combines compute, storage, virtualization, and even disaster recovery into a single appliance that can be clustered for high availability.  No more purchasing all of the components separately from different vendors, no more making sure all of the components are compatible, and no more dealing with support and maintenance from multiple vendors on different schedules.

Not all HCI systems are equal, though, as some still adhere to some separate components.  Some use third party hypervisors that require separate licensing. Some still adhere to SAN architectures that require virtual storage appliances (VSAs) or other inefficient storage architectures requiring excessive resource overhead and require SSD storage for caching to overcome inefficiencies.

Not only does HCI reduce vendor management and complexity but when done correctly,  embeds storage  in the hypervisor and offers it as a direct attached, block access storage system to VM workloads. This significantly improves the I/O performance of storage for virtualization. This architecture provides excellent performance for spinning disk so when SSD is added as a second storage tier, the storage performance is greatly improved.  Also, because the storage is including in the appliance, it eliminates managing a separate SAN appliance.

HCI goes even further in simplifying IT infrastructure to allow management of the whole system from a single interface.  Because the architecture is managed as a single unit and prevalidated, there is no effort spent making sure the various components work together. When the system is truly hyperconverged, including the hypervisor, there is greater control in automation so that software and firmware updates can be done without disruption to running VMs.  And for scaling out, new appliances can be added to a cluster without disruption as well.

The result of these simplifications and improvements of infrastructure in hyperconvergence is an infrastructure that can be deployed quickly, scaled easily, and that requires little management. It embodies many of the benefits of the cloud where the infrastructure is virtually transparent.  Instead of spending time managing infrastructure, administrators can focus time managing apps and processes rather than hardware and infrastructure.

Infrastructure should no longer require certified storage experts, virtualization experts, or any kind of hardware experts. Administrators should no longer need entire weekends or month-long projects to deploy and integrate infrastructure or spend sleepless nights dealing with failures. Hyperconvergence breaks the cycle of infrastructure as a variety of different vendors and components. Instead, it makes infrastructure a simple, available, and trusted commodity.

Screenshot 2016-07-13 09.34.07