In today’s highly competitive, fast-paced business environment, traditional hardware-centric infrastructure no longer cuts it.
Its siloed architecture limits visibility across various departments, keeps teams divided and slows provisioning and collaboration. Since it lacks the speed and flexibility to keep up with ever-changing user needs and business demands, businesses that still use them are getting left behind.
Although virtualization has helped resolve some of the challenges in using traditional infrastructure, true flexibility can only be achieved by changing the underlying infrastructure.
The advent of hyper-converged infrastructure (a software-centric solution) enables speed, security, and flexibility while lowering costs associated with traditional hardware-centric infrastructure. HCI represents a key building block for the data center of the future.
What is HCI?
HCI refers to a software-centric mechanism that allows the convergence of storage, management and computational capability into enterprise standard x86 servers. It facilitates a building-block approach coupled with scale-out capabilities that enable key data center functions to be run on the hypervisor (as software) within a tightly integrated software layer.
Traditional Infrastructure vs. HCI
Let’s take a look at how traditional infrastructure compares with HCI in the following applications:
Disaster recovery and data protection
With traditional infrastructure, disaster recovery was a time-consuming process and organizations could look forward to some downtime before systems came back online. However, businesses that leverage HCI enjoy the benefits of asynchronous long-distance replication, built-in failure tolerance and stretched clusters that ensure zero or minimal downtime while providing a considerable high level of protection.
Under traditional infrastructure, provisioning storage was a manual task (often prone to errors) that required extensive knowledge of storage silos. With HCI, storage provisioning is handled automatically when creating virtual machines.
Time spent on new projects
The siloed architecture of traditional infrastructure creates challenges for team communication and collaboration – resulting in inefficient processes and duplicate work.
New models of HCI are priced based on cost per CPU rather than cost per TB of storage. This means that there are no additional software costs when increasing storage capacity. Deploying traditional infrastructure requires an expensive upfront investment in hardware, in addition to ongoing expenses owing to price hikes.
Ensuring high performance in traditional infrastructure required ongoing load balancing and manual interventions. HCI’s all-flash optimization eliminates the need for load balancing and delivers high performance without the need to tune for hotspots.
HCI saves time through the auto discovery of resources and automated storage provisioning. Before changing resources in traditional infrastructure, requests must be placed with the admin.
Built-in tools within HCI handles the replacement of hardware and movement of data as needed. With traditional infrastructure, these tasks are complex and require the use of expensive third-party tools and professional help.
With traditional infrastructure, achieving subpar visibility needed multiple teams and tools. HCI comes with a single tool to provision end-to-end visibility into networking and storage.
This involved long wait times and a complicated selection process due to the creation of dependency between VM admins and storage. On the other hand, HCI offers storage already built into the VM creation process.
Furthermore, sizing data centers in a traditional environment created challenges that are non-existent in HCI. With legacy systems, sizing is usually done upfront and implemented at the start of the replacement cycle.
Naturally, staggering takes place so that enterprises do not have to rip or replace the entire data center at once; however, upgrade times are predetermined, based on budget constraints and planned schedules. Conversely, minimal sizing of HCI systems is done upfront, and enterprises can snap in new nodes when business needs arise.
Challenges of Buying or Building an HCI Solution
Depending on the size, use case and particular industry and business needs, it may be a good idea to build out your own HCI environment. However, building HCI systems from scratch is a terrible idea for virtually everybody – except for those who possess the skills and expertise needed to make building HCI systems from individual software components comparatively easy.
That being said, there are a lot of instances and use cases where white box solutions are great; however, HCI is not one of them.
Some experts are of the opinion that a DIY HCI project is certainly doable. However, it should be noted that at its core, HCI is not a cloud. Several layers must be added to the basic components before it can begin to approach the functionality of cloud.
Implementing each of these layers requires skills, expertise and extensive knowledge to achieve, maintain and manage.
As such, building your own HCI is not a project to be taken lightly. It’s best to purchase HCI solutions from trusted vendors instead of embarking on a build-it-yourself HCI project that has no guarantee of success.